Irish Water alert on lead pipes criticised

by Aisling Kennedy

UP TO 10% of households around Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown will receive letters from Irish Water over the coming weeks informing them that their water meters have been connected to lead pipes during the recent installation.
This situation means many families in the area could be facing a danger to their health, as lead consumption can affect brain development, with young children, infants and “babies in the womb” most at risk, according to the HSE and the Environmental Protection Agency.
It was revealed in March that up to 10% of residents in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown could be affected by lead contamination in their water supply, after Cllr Ossian Smyth (GP) queried the issue with the utility.
He has been chasing the matter ever since as Irish Water did not divulge who the affected 10% of residents might be.
Cllr Smyth said: “I asked Irish Water to tell people who were affected as people have the right to know if their water is safe to drink. Irish Water last week agreed to write to people in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown whose homes are supplied with lead pipes to warn them of the danger to their health.”
Cllr Smyth said that while he was satisfied Irish Water was informing residents if they were affected or not, he believed they should also be informing residents about where responsibility for lead pipe replacement lies.
“Irish Water has not told people in the letters they are sending out where the issue lies. They give the impression that this is all the customer’s problem – but this is not true.”
Cllr Smyth said that Irish Water should be informing residents if the problem of the lead pipes lay on their side of the meter, or on the customer’s side.
“It is up to Irish Water to replace lead pipes on their side of the meter, and I believe that Irish Water is misrepresenting this as solely a matter for homeowners to resolve. This is misleading,” he said.
In response, an Irish Water spokesperson said: “There are still some lead pipes in the public network, but these are mostly in old shared connections or in the short pipes connecting the [public] water main to the [private] water supply pipes.
“Irish Water is contacting the houses where the meters are being installed, as the presence of lead pipes on the public side is an indicator that there may be lead piping within the private property.”
The spokesperson said that householders should not wait for Irish Water to contact them if they suspect there may be lead pipes on their property.
Irish Water also added that even if all pipes on the public side were replaced, lead could still be present in drinking water as a result of lead pipes in private, internal plumbing within a house – that is, the pipes that are the homeowner’s responsibility.
The spokesperson said: “The replacement of lead pipes on the public side is one of the main proposals of the Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Plan which is currently at draft stage and, once finalised, will be brought to the Commission for Energy Regulation for approval.
“Currently, if a property owner replaces the lead pipework on their property, Irish Water will also replace the pipework between the water main and the property boundary.”

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