EPA Well Water Initiative

The EPA initiative aimed at reducing the risk to public health from contamination of private well water supplies. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases of E.Coli reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in 2012 (up 100%) which continued in 2013.Ireland has the highest incident rate of E.Coli in Europe. Analysis of E.Coli cases by the HPSC has found that patients are up to 4 times more likely to have consumed untreated water from private wells.

We are offerring a 10% discount in support of this initiative.

Be Informed - Be Safe!

How safe is your well?

What lives in your water? E.Coli and other risk factors.

What are the risks from lead in your water?

Well water

Risks

If your well is in an area of high groundwater vulnerability and is poorly constructed there is a risk of contamination even for deep wells. The EPA recommends that if you suspect that your water may be contaminated it is advisable to boil your water before drinking, washing teeth, or cleaning food until you have had your well water tested. The EPA advise that you get your well water tested annually.

Contamination

Contamination (microbiological or chemical) may occur from waste from septic tanks, fertilizer or surface runoff. Discolouration and/or odour may be an indication of contamination but contaminants can be present and the water may not be discoloured. Contamination can make anyone who consumes the water ill, but just because householders are not getting sick, is no guarantee that the well is safe.

The EPA has more information related to well water testing, contamination methods of disinfection, and grant availability in these FAQs.

The HSE has published information on the risks of illness from well water. (pdf)

The Geological Survey of Ireland has mapped Groundwater Vulnerability in Ireland; see their interactive GIS groundwater viewer.

The National Federation of Group Water Schemes has also published a plain English guide "What’s in Your Water?" (pdf)

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Is your Drinking Water contaminated with E.coli?

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of cases of E.Coli reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) in 2012 (up 100%) which continued in 2013. Ireland has the highest incident rate of E.Coli in Europe. Analysis of E.Coli cases by the HPSC has found that patients are up to 4 times more likely to have consumed untreated water from private wells.

Also the EPA has reported that up to 30% of private wells in Ireland are contaminated (EPA, 2010). The Central Statistics Office states that approximately 170,000 domestic properties are supplied by private wells (www.cso.ie).

Private water supplies, including private wells, are currently classified as “exempted supplies” under the European Union (Drinking Water) Regulations, 2014. This means that there is no requirement to monitor such supplies nor is there any regulatory supervision of such supplies.

Private well owners are largely unaware of the risks associated with their water supply and many are under the assumption that they are consuming “pure” water because it originates from groundwater.

The lack of awareness by home-owners of the risks to private water supplies, as well as poor well construction and low levels of treatment provided, is currently a matter of concern for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Well owners should check their wells to ensure their health is not at risk. This includes checking that there aren’t any sources of pollution entering their well and testing the well water at least once a year, ideally following heavy rain when it is most at risk of contamination. Disinfection kills all E. coli while public water supplies are disinfected, most private wells are not.

The EPA will be providing easy to use information on its website explaining what well owners should do to protect their health as well as a simple animation to explain the risks and web app Protect Your Well to assist well owners.

VTEC are a particular group of the bacterium E. coli. VTEC infection often causes severe bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramps although. In some persons, particularly children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), in which the red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail.

[1]. EPA (2010). Water quality in Ireland 2007-2009. Office of Environmental Assessment, EPA, Wexford, Ireland.

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Is Lead in your Drinking Water?

Risks from Lead Exposure.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) No level of lead in drinking water is now considered to be completely safe. The legal limit of lead in drinking water in Europe was lowered by more than half on December 25th 2013 (from 25µg/l to 10µg/l [micrograms per litre]

Lead can affect the development of a child’s brain leading to problems with learning, behaviour and attention. The risk is greatest for young children, infants and babies in the womb.

The risk to the brain is less in older children and adults but lead may harm the kidneys,and may contribute to high blood pressure.

Lead has also been linked to cancer. It is classified as ‘probably carcinogenic’ to humans. This means that we are not sure if it causes cancer in humans but that we know it can cause cancer in animals.

The higher the level of lead in drinking water and the longer this water has been used for drinking, the greater the risk for young children, infants and babies in the womb. Ongoing exposure to high levels of lead, over a long time, can cause a build-up of lead in the bones.

Everybody should therefore try to drink water with as little lead in it as possible.

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How do I know if there is lead in my water?

The level of lead in drinking water can be different in different buildings or houses on the same water supply. The level of lead depends on a number of factors such as:

Whether there is lead pipes and plumbing in the building or house.

Whether the lead pipes and plumbing have been replaced.

The length of lead pipes in the building or house.

The amount of water used (dishwasher, showers, washing machine).

The softness and temperature of the water.

Most individual houses and buildings are not tested. Also, some small private water supplies are not tested.

If you have lead pipes or lead in your plumbing system, either inside the house or outside the house, you should have your drinking water tested.

However, if you are not sure about the presence of Lead pipes, then you should have your water tested as a precaution.

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