A single E.coli organism found in 68 analysed samples of Waterford City Council drinking water in 2006 was considered sufficient to place the total supply on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) risk list.

While national media were busily sounding alarm bells on the issue late last week, a couple of phone calls to both the EPA and Waterford City Council shed some non-hyped light on the matter.

“In the EPA’s (provision and quality of drinking water) report for 2006 the overall rate of compliance in Waterford City at 98.9 per cent was considered good,” said Ray Mannix, Senior Engineer of the City Council’s Environmental Services department.

“Waterford City’s water supply is on the EPA Remedial Action List because we had a single sample (of 68 samples analysed) where a single organism of E.coli was detected.

“However, overall the report states that compliance with the E.coli and enterococci parametric values in 2006 in Waterford City was good. All subsequent samples have been clear of E.coli.”

EPA spokesperson Niamh Leahy stressed that supplies named on the Remedial Action List didn’t mean that the drinking water administered by local authorities from these sources were unsafe to drink.

“The supplies listed carry the possibility of being at risk unless remedial action is taken,” she said.

“This is very much a working list; a road map for improvement across all supplies which we believe will get everyone moving in the right direction.”

Ray Mannix said that the City Council is working closely with the EPA to ensure high quality drinking water across the city.

“We’re reviewing our current Disinfection Procedures in consultation with the EPA and it is planned to install booster chlorination at selected locations throughout the distribution network during 2008, as an added precaution against the presence of E.coli bacteria,” he added.

An EPA drinking water report published on January 24th stated that “339 public water supplies required examination from source to consumer to determine whether replacements or upgrades were needed, or whether operational practices should be improved”.

The East Waterford Regional supply, for which Waterford City Council is responsible for, caters for 41,945 residents.

Meanwhile, Waterford County Council said it has taken steps to rectify several of the non-compliance incidences recorded across some 18 supplies named in last week’s list for which it is responsible.

“Some of these have already been remedied,” according to Senior Engineer Pat McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy specified that steps had already been taken to improve the seven supplies which failed to meet the EPA’s E.coli standard during the period that the Drinking Water Report was compiled.

“Generally speaking, the water supply for the county got a good report,” he added, with the overall county supply serving a population of 52,763.

The overall rate of compliance in Waterford in 2006 stood at 94.2 per cent, which was below the national average.

The Seskin supply, near the Waterford/Tipperary border, which services 100 people, was deemed to have inadequate treatment for cryptosporidium.

In December 2006, an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis occurred in Portlaw, during which eight cases of the disease were reported. Remedial action had since been taken by the County Council to “reduce the likelihood of a reoccurrence” according to the EPA report.

If a water supply doesn’t meet the established drinking water standards, the city/county council is immediately required to bring this to the attention of both the Health Service Executive and the EPA.