The presence of a potentially dangerous level of a chemical element in the Kilkenny City and Inistioge Water supplies was highlighted by Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan at a recent meeting of Kilkenny County Council.
In a Notice of Motion supported by all members, Cllr Noonan called on Irish Water to attend a plenary of the council to address this and ‘ongoing capital and operational’ issues related to water and wastewater service provision in the county. At the meeting, Cllr Noonan said that Irish Water was lacking in political accountability on issues of public health concern when it came to water quality.
He also expressed concerns that Irish Water had notified members that they would only be available quarterly to answer members' queries, as opposed to monthly in a previous arrangement.
“I feel that we are being stripped of all control or say in relation to water quality issues,” said Cllr Noonan.
“When water services were under the stewardship of local authorities we could deal directly with an engineer and have the matter addressed. Irish Water have to be held accountable and it is my hope that they will attend a future meeting to address public concerns.”
The Green Party councillor said that the issue of exceedences of Trihalomethanes (THMs) in the Kilkenny City and Inistioge supply was raised in an EPA Water Quality Report. THMs occur when high levels of organic matter (leaves, peat, land runoff) mix with chlorine — the disinfectant used to treat public water supplies.
Inhalation or ingestion of THMs can affect the central nervous system, the bowel, and lead to a number of other health problems in adults and children.
Cllr Noonan questioned why this information was not publicaly available and argued that Irish Water should have a means to communicate matters of such seriousness to the public and to public representatives.
“The famous environmental campaigner Erin Brockivich issued a warning to Irish authorities to address the issue as she has been dealing with exposure to THMs in water supplies in the USA for many years,” said Cllr Noonan.
He added that the problem is exacerbated following flood events, particularly when the bulk of our water supply comes from river water and has to be heavily chemically dosed with chlorine to purify the water.
“I want the matter of THM’s addressed urgently,” said the Kilkenny City West councillor.
“Groundwater is a cleaner supply and we were directed via an EU action by a Kilkenny family a number of years ago to use groundwater as our primary source. The levels of THM’s in the Kilkenny and Inistioge supplies are unacceptably high but what is equally unacceptable is silence on the issue from Irish Water.”