EU Infringement Case Over Irish Drinking Water Contamination

A type of contaminant known as THM’s (Trihalomethanes) occur when water is treated with chlorine. THMs are disinfection by-products and the result of a reaction between the chlorine used for disinfecting tap water and natural organic matter in the water. At elevated levels, THMs have been associated with negative health effects such as cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes in humans.

In Ireland, THM’s have been known to occur in some counties where the surface water to be treated, is sourced from areas close to bogs or peaty soils. The vegetation and organic matter in these water supplies reacts with chlorine (which is used to purify the water) to form Trihalomethanes.

In August 2018, the EU Commission opened an infringement case against Ireland for failing to ensure drinking water for over 500,000 consumers is safe from a chemical linked to cancer and other health issues. The Commission sent a formal notice letter to Ireland for failing to fulfil its obligations under the Drinking Water Directive by allowing excessive levels of Trihalomethanes (THM) in Irish drinking water.

According to the Commission, the Irish authorities had “not taken appropriate actions” to bring down the levels of THM in drinking water. The Commission is also pursuing the Irish state for failing to notify consumers of the health implications as required under the Directive.

The EU Commission had previously warned the Irish Government that further “treatment” would be necessary to deal with the chemicals, which have been linked to cancer. Long-term exposure to THM’s is reported to carry increased risks of cancers, including of the bladder and colon, and may cause damage to the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and central nervous system.

It is estimated that over 500,000 households in Ireland could be affected, including homes in parts of Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny city, Mayo, Meath, Roscommon, Waterford and Wicklow.

For households worried about THMs and other chemical contaminants in their drinking water, a quality under-sink water filter or filtration system will purify the water for drinking and provide long term protection and peace of mind.

January 28, 2019


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