Pregnant women and parents of babies and young children in several hundred city homes have been warned to run their tap for a number of minutes before consumption, or alternatively to purchase bottled water, until excess lead levels in their water supply are brought under control.

On Friday last, Waterford City Council announced that excess levels of lead had been found in the public water supply to older homes out the Newtown/Dunmore Road as far as Glenville and from Johnstown via John’s Hill, Grange Park, Passage Road and back to the Dunmore Road. Too much lead in drinking water can build up in the human body and cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells, particularly of unborn babies and children under six years of age.

The local issue is understood to have arisen from the lead service pipes through which the water travels closer to homes, rather then the local authority’s treatment plant. Over the past few days the Council has increased the pH level of the water in a bid to control lead solubility and the results of tests to establish whether this was successful will be known later this week.

In the meantime, householders in the affected areas have been advised by the Council and the Health Service Executive to let their cold tap run off a sink full of water which should be discarded before water is poured for human consumption. This is especially important first thing in the morning and when water has not run through the taps for six hours or more.

Colette Byrne, Director of Services, said there was no reason for general concern about water quality in the city. Further testing in both the affected areas and also elsewhere in the city will be carried out in the coming days and further information can be obtained on the Council’s website