Local authorities are responsible for monitoring the quality of the water supply in their areas. In addition, water supplies are tested by the Health Service Executive to make sure that the water is safe to drink. New EU drinking water regulations, that make it imperative for all public mains and group water schemes and private wells to conform to the highest possible standards of safety, came into effect in March 2007.
All drinking water must comply with the The European Communities (Drinking Water) (No. 2) Regulations, 2007 which set standards for 48 individual microbiological, chemical and indicator parameters.
Wicklow County Council carries out regular monitoring of public water supplies and group water schemes, and sends these results to the Environmental Protection Agency each year for the EPA Annual Report on Drinking Water Quality.
Role of Wicklow County Council in monitoring water quality
Wicklow Local Authorities are responsible for maintaining the public mains systems and ensuring the quality of the water they distribute and for the water quality of the group water scheme sector. They employ the local Health Service Executive (HSE) Area to independently carry out the necessary sampling of water supplies.
If a water supply constitutes a danger to human health, the local authority must make sure that the use of that water supply is restricted and that the public are made aware of the dangers as soon as possible.
It will sometimes issue a Boil Water notice, warning people that their water supply is not safe for human consumption without boiling. This includes drinking, food preparation, making ice, drinks made with water and brushing teeth. However, you can still use water for personal hygiene, bathing and flushing toilets.
If you get your water from the public mains system and have doubts about its quality, you should check to see if the problem is being caused by deficiencies in your own plumbing system. If this is the case, it is your responsibility to get the problem fixed.
This also applies to a public group water scheme that gets its water from the public mains system. It is responsible for maintaining its own equipment. If the problem is with the public mains system, you should contact the environment section of Wicklow County Council to report the problem.
All problems with the public mains systems are the responsibility of the local authority. However, people who get their water from a private group water scheme or a private water supply like a well are responsible for the maintenance of their own water systems and must deal with equipment and contamination problems themselves.
Role of the Health Service Executive (HSE) in monitoring water quality
The Environmental Health section of the Local HSE Health Office monitors water supplies on behalf of the local authorities to make sure that all water sources meet the required public health standards.
The Health Service Executive is also responsible for monitoring the fluoride content of public water supplies. If your water comes from a private source, such as a well, you can get your water quality analysed by the HSE Area. It is entitled to charge a fee for the monitoring of these private water supplies.
However, the fee cannot be more than the cost of the monitoring and is payable by the owner of a private water source. If the amount is not paid, the local authority can take a case to the District Court to recover the amount.
Enforcement of Drinking Water Quality
New drinking water regulations came into force during 2007 titled the European Communities (Drinking Water) (No.2) Regulations 2007. Under these regulations the EPA is the supervisory authority for public water supplies. These regulations provide the EPA with powers of direction to direct a local authority to improve the management or quality of a public water supply. The local authorities have a similar supervisory role in relation to group water schemes and private supplies. Under the regulations the local authority must notify the EPA of drinking water non-compliances or risk to public health from a public water supply.
For details of the EPA report on the quality of drinking water in Wicklow, follow this link Quality of Drinking Water 2006 - 2007 for the document “The Provision and Quality of Drinking Water in Ireland - A Report for the Years 2006-2007”.
For a summary of the main findings of the report go to Environmental Protection Agency
Role of the Environmental Protection Agency in monitoring water quality
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produces a yearly report on the quality of drinking water in Ireland. This report contains information from each local authority in the country about the monitoring of the various water supply schemes in its area.
This report is available on the EPA's Publications Office, St Martin's House, Waterloo Road, Dublin 4.
Public mains systems
The Environmental Protection Agency drinking water reports show that the quality of water in the public mains system is quite high around the county. Public mains water goes through a complicated treatment process before it is distributed to the consumer. (see how water is treated) Water is sampled at all stages of the treatment process and regular testing is carried out on tap water on a daily basis to make sure it complies with the EU standards.
Private group water schemes
Water quality in private group water schemes is tested by the HSE on behalf of the local authority twice a year. With the introduction of the Rural Water Programme, the Government has taken a number of actions aimed at improving the quality of water in group schemes. If the water in a private group scheme is not up to EU standards, the group must submit an action programme to the local authority with details of the proposed treatment of the water supply.
If your water supply comes from a private well that supplies only your own house, you are responsible for monitoring your own water supply. You can do this by contacting the Environmental Health section of your Local HSE Health Office, who can organise testing to be carried out. It is not recommended that you take a water sample yourself as equipment has to be sterile. If the Local Health Office is testing your water for you, you must bear the cost of the testing yourself and if your water supply is contaminated, you must organise and pay for any treatment that has to be carried out.
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