Measures taken by Waterford City Council to reduce lead levels in the water supply of older houses in the city have been successful, though it’s unclear whether these will be sustainable in the long term.
The latest round of results from testing in areas previously identified as having excess levels of lead in their public water supply has indicated that lead levels are falling, as a result of a readjustment of the pH level measuring acidity and alkalinity in the supply. Over 83 per cent of the most recent tests conducted by the local authority have shown lead levels below the current limit, with this figure increasing to 100 per cent after water was allowed run off for five minutes.
However the Council has yet to determine if the reduced lead levels will be sustained over time and people living in the affected areas have been advised to continue taking precautions before using tap water
for drinking or food preparation.
The Council says it is continuing to investigate the cause of the breaches of the lead/water limit of 25 microgrammes per litre. The first area of the city where the issue arose is bordered by a line from The Mall (though not including The Mall) 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.
Similar issues subsequently arose in an area covering the ‘top of the town’, taking in Keane’s Road, Marian Park, Ozanam St, Cathal Brugha St, Military Road, Morrison’s Road, St Carthage’s Avenue, Blake’s Lane, Presentation Row and Slievekeale Road. Also impacted are Congress Place, Tycor Ave, Griffith Place, Ard Na Greine, Cannon Street,  Luke Wadding St, Sexton St, Leamy St, the Upper Yellow Road and the older part of Ferrybank including Rockenham and Marymount.
Householders affected received notices from the local authority and are continuing to be advised by the Council and the Health Service Executive (HSE) 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. Home owners in the Tycor Avenue area are advised to run their water for five minutes after particularly high lead levels were found in their supply.
If substituting bottled water in cases of young children and pregnant women or to make infant formula, people are advised to ensure this water is labelled as ‘natural mineral water’ and is certified as having a sodium content of less than 20mg/litre.
Since October 24, the treatment plant at Adamstown has increased the pH level of the water and the early impact of this has been positive with significant reductions in lead levels recorded in individual houses, according to Colette Byrne, Director of Services, Waterford City Council.
“Our priority now is to see if this improvement is maintained over time and – until that can be confirmed – our advice to householders in those areas affected remains to take the precautions we advised them of last month.
“Waterford City Council
continues to work closely with both the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the HSE regarding
advice in relation to any human health issues that may arise. We have also met with the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government about the early delivery of a mains rehabilitation works programme in the worst affected areas. We will now make a formal submission to the Department in this regard.”
The Council is to assess the local authority houses in affected areas to see what measures can be taken with the service pipes that bring water on the final stretch to household taps. It is the responsibility of those who own their own homes, however, to replace that length of piping with copper or plastic pipework.