IR­ISH WA­TER has been told to pri­ori­tise the dis­in­fec­tion of the sup­ply to Millstreet fol­low­ing the dis­cov­ery of a par­a­site in the lo­cal sup­ply on five oc­ca­sions over the past two months.

A drink­ing wa­ter au­dit un­der­taken by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) ini­tially re­vealed the pres­ence of cryp­tosporid­ium – a mi­cro­scopic par­a­site that can cause gas­troen­teri­tis – in the lo­cal wa­ter sup­ply on two dates in Septem­ber.

It has emerged that three fur­ther in­ci­dents of the par­a­site in the sup­ply, which is sourced pri­mar­ily from the un­cov­ered Tubrid Spring and serves a pop­u­la­tion of 3,800 peo­ple in the lo­cal­ity, had been re­ported in Oc­to­ber.

In an au­dit re­port on their find­ings the EPA noted that “at present there is no treat­ment bar­rier in place to pre­vent cryp­tosporid­ium” – this de­spite the fact that a 2015 as­sess­ment of the lo­cal sup­ply found the risk of the par­a­site en­ter­ing the sup­ply had in­creased to a “very high” sta­tus.

“The mon­i­tor­ing pro­gramme, which com­menced in Au­gust 2016, has found cryp­tosporid­ium oocysts in the treated wa­ter on each sam­pling oc­ca­sion since Septem­ber 20,” read the EPA au­dit re­port.

How­ever, the re­port pointed out that the HSE had not re­ported any in­stances of ill­ness in the area be­ing served by the sup­ply.

“Ir­ish wa­ter needs to pri­ori­tise the in­stal­la­tion of a cryp­tosporid­ium bar­rier in or­der to en­sure the safety and se­cu­rity of the Millstreet pub­lic wa­ter sup­ply,” read the re­port.

As a re­sult of the find­ings the Millstreet sup­ply has now been added to the EPA’s re­me­dial ac­tion list, the pur­pose of which is to fo­cus Ir­ish Wa­ter’s at­ten­tion on re­solv­ing the moist se­ri­ous de­fi­cien­cies in pub­lic wa­ter sup­plies.

Cur­rently, there are 108 sup­plies across the coun­try serv­ing al­most 947,000 peo­ple on the pri­or­ity list, six of which are lo­cated in Cork city and county.

The EPA pointed out the Tubrid Spring, which sup­plies 90% of lo­cal drink­ing wa­ter, was un­cov­ered and lo­cated in an area that was ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic, who re­gard it as a holy well, and visi­tors would not be aware that it was the main source of drink­ing wa­ter for Millstreet.

While the EPA con­firmed that no “un­usual ac­tiv­i­ties” had been de­tected in the catch­ment area of the spring prior to the de­tec­tion of the par­a­site, it ad­vised Ir­ish Wa­ter to li­aise with Cork County Coun­cil to en­sure farm and sep­tic tanks were un­der­taken at nearby houses.

It also or­dered the com­pany to take ac­tion to en­sure the spring was fenced off and se­cure to pre­vent an­i­mal ac­cess and that en­trance gates were closed at all times.

It was also in­structed to make sure that a small hole over the clear wa­ter sump was suf­fi­ciently sealed to pre­vent con­tam­i­na­tion to treated wa­ter and that an ul­tra vi­o­let trans­mit­tance mon­i­tor, which the com­pany had ad­mit­ted had been off­line pe­ri­od­i­cally since it was in­stalled last May, was “op­er­a­tional at all times.”

The EPA or­dered Ir­ish Wa­ter to sub­mit a re­port de­tail­ing how it has dealt with the “is­sues of con­cern” iden­ti­fied in the au­dit.

“The re­port should in­clude de­tails on ac­tion taken and plans to ad­dress the var­i­ous rec­om­men­da­tions (in the au­dit), in­clud­ing a time frame for the com­ple­tion of any planned works,” said the EPA.

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