Limerick village left with unsafe drinking water for a year

Stock photo.

UNSAFE drinking water was supplied to a Limerick village for as long as a year before residents were issued with a boil water notice, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA report showed that the UV treatment facility at the plant that supplies water to Montpellier in north County Limerick, as well as neighbouring O’Brien’s Bridge in County Clare, was not working for a year before Uisce Éireann became aware of the problem.

Residents of the two villages, as well as other nearby villages, with a combined population of almost 1,000, are currently provided with drinking water from the supply.

The EPA audit revealed that the water being consumed was inadequately disinfected.

EPA officials found “a lack of communication” between Clare County Council, who have charge of the plant, and Uisce Éireann had resulted in a significant delay in identifying the full extent of the deficiency in the ultraviolet disinfection system.

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A boil water notice was issued on August 25, 2023, 12 months after the supply’s UV disinfection system had been out of operation and lifted in October of that year.

Clare County Council (CCC) informed the EPA that the UV disinfection system, which was installed in 2016 often had operational and maintenance issues that were not treated as incidents.

The EPA also confirmed that CCC staff had not received training on the UV disinfection system and were unaware of how to respond to incidents involving the system.

Uisce Éireann has since apologised for the oversight, with the water company said that, since the discovery, “major improvements have been made in operational oversight and risk management processes at the plant to ensure it provides a clean, safe drinking water supply to the local community”.

“Uisce Éireann has since completed works to address the recommendations in the EPA audit report and additional source protection works are currently being progressed.

“These works included the upgrade of the disinfection systems, the installation of a turbidity monitor and chlorine alarms, and an enhanced schedule of network monitoring. Full UV disinfection is now in place at the plant with alarms and escalation systems to support this.”

Uisce Éireann added that enhanced training has also been rolled out to all staff on the operation of the disinfection systems at the plant and on the management and escalation of incidents, “so that we can protect and inform our customers”.