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Minister Gormley notes the publication of the EPA report

Press release April 22, 2009 Energy & Environment

The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland 2007 and 2008

*The Government will continue to preserve and protect our water resources as a key priority in environmental policy by vigorously pursuing our programme to meet European Union standards for drinking water* said Mr. John Gormley TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, today (23 April 2009) on the publication of the Environmental Protection Agency*s report - The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland 2007 and 2008.

*The EPA*s report demonstrates that overall the quality of our water is good and that further progress has been made in improving water quality in recent years. Clearly a lot more needs to be done and our rivers, lakes and water sources are still under threat from pollution - we must continue to protect them. The priority attached by Government to  this area is reflected in funding of 500m for investment in water services this year which, even in these adverse economic times, represents an increase on our record spending in 2008* added the Minister.

The report is the first full yearly report for which the Agency has been applying its enhanced powers under the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations 2007 and details the results of almost 240,000 drinking water monitoring tests carried out in 2007 as well as details of the EPA*s enforcement activities in the year to September 2008. The overall level of testing in 2007 is an 8% increase on the number of tests carried out in 2006 (with the number of tests carried out in public group water schemes and small private supplies increasing by 26% and 75% respectively).

Commenting on the report, the Minister welcomed the fact that water quality has continued to improve but the Minister noted that sustained commitment of water suppliers and their personnel will be required if these improvements are to be improved upon further. *My Department and I have been working for some time with the key stakeholders, including the local authorities, the EPA and the EU Commission to ensure that the management structures for the supply of drinking water in Ireland are of the highest standard. I am satisfied that our combined efforts will allow us to manage the supply of quality drinking water from the source to the tap.* 

Addressing the EPA*s Remedial Action List, the Minister said that for schemes which were not already scheduled for major upgrading under the Water Services Investment Programme, he had established a special 15 million fund to meet the costs of any small scale improvements required to address the deficiencies which had been identified by the EPA. The Minister also noted that 95% of Group Water Scheme households were in compliance with national drinking water standards at the end of 2008 compared to 75% in 2006.

Noting the concern expressed by the EPA in the report regarding the adequacy of the protection of water sources and in particular surface water sources, the Minister said *Proper source protection is fundamental to ensuring the highest water standards and will be essential if Ireland is to achieve the objectives of the Water Framework Directive. The enhanced enforcement powers I have given to local authorities under the recent Nitrates Directive are a good example of the approaches which are required to protect our drinking water sources.

The work that is being undertaken in the preparation of draft River Basin Management Plans will also help to identify the actions which will be required to mitigate any risks.* The Minister gave his strong support for the EPA*s recommendation that chlorine monitors and alarms be installed on drinking water supplies. *This also a key element in the ongoing efforts to secure the closure of the ECJ Drinking Water Case and my Department has been working intensively with local authorities to ensure that all public and group water supplies are equipped with alarms and monitors without delay. Good progress is being made and the remaining supplies will be provided with the necessary infrastructure in the coming months* the Minister said.

The Minister said he also agreed with the EPA regarding the positive benefits for water suppliers in promoting water conservation and added he will ensure that increased focus will be placed on conservation measures in the new Water Services Investment Programme.

Finally, the Minister indicated that he was willing to examine with the Agency any proposals it might have to further improve the regulations with a view to further safeguarding the protection of public health, drinking water supplies and wider environmental considerations.


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Sean Dunne

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
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