Greens call for action on lead levels in water

by Gazette Reporter
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DRINKING water in nearly 10% of homes in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown could be contaminated by lead, according to Cllr Ossian Smyth (GP).
He was informed by Irish Water meter installers that 8,500 homes in the county could be affected.
The information followed Cllr Smyth’s request for information on water quality in the local authority area.
He is calling for action on possible lead contamination in drinking water as this could cause serious health problems to brain development in children and pregnant women in the areas of kidney function and blood pressure.
Irish Water told the councillor that although there were no lead water mains in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, “service connections are not recorded in the Irish Water geographical information system in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, so no exact figure can be given for lead service pipes in the area.
“However, as part of the metering programme, out of a total of 14,963 meters installed in DLR, 1,453 of installations reported lead service pipes (9.7%).”
Rockford Park, Blackrock resident Susanne Barry told The Gazette: “Since we moved in [January], the water coming from the tap tastes bitter and [has an odour] like smelly socks. It really puts me off drinking it
“The house was built around 1955. I rang Irish Water to get the water tested; they told me some works were being done and to run the tap for an hour before drinking, and see if there was a change, but there was none.
“I rang them back about this, and was told taste was down to the individual, but they confirmed the water would be tested. That was on March 3.
“I want to know what’s in the water, and to change whatever needs to be done. I’ve been buying bottled water since, as I’m worried about the health [aspects] as I’ve two small children – a four-year-old and a nine-month-old.”
Cllr Smyth said: “People have the expectation that the water they pay for is clean and safe to drink, but the latest figures provided to me by Irish Water prove that the problem of lead contamination has been seriously underestimated.
“My research has shown that as many as 8,500 homes in Dun Laoghaire may be affected by lead-contaminated drinking water supplies.”
An Irish Water spokesperson said no official survey was carried out by water installers. The utility is liaising with the Environmental Protection Agency and the HSE to finalise a national policy for lead in drinking water which will involve targeted replacement of any remaining Irish Water lead service pipes.
The spokesperson said: “Lead was the main material used in connections to buildings and internal plumbing in homes up to the 1960s.
“Property owners are responsible for the water distribution system on their own property, including all domestic internal plumbing.
“Irish Water is responsible for the maintenance and renewal of water mains on the public water distribution network. The amount of lead distribution pipe in the public water distribution system is negligible.
“Any estimate on levels of lead in internal plumbing of private houses is based on the average age of housing stock nationally. Such a survey has not been carried out by meter installers.”
However, Cllr Smyth said: “The HSE have stated that even low levels of lead can have small but significant effects on health, and that no level of lead in drinking water is now considered to be completely safe.
“Disseminating information about this risk is critically important for those caring for bottle-fed infants, young children and pregnant women. It is my intention to inform households affected.”
About 15,431 children live in the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown area and Cllr Smyth said any households affected by the issue would need financial support to help get rid of the lead pipes.

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