E.coli contamination found in 51 private water supplies - EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency has said it is particularly concerned about risks to public health posed by poor quality drinking water from private water supplies.

It said that many such supplies are not registered or monitored sufficiently to ensure safe drinking water and that E.coli contamination has been found in 51 supplies tested.

One million people in Ireland get their drinking water from private supplies.

Many more drink unknowingly from those supplies in places such as hotels, B&Bs, pubs, schools, crèches, and campsites.

These supplies are mostly in rural areas and provide drinking water to people who are not connected to the public water mains. The water source in most cases is a spring or a well.

However, the EPA said that many private supplies are not on the local authorities' register and those that are registered are not monitored sufficiently to ensure safe drinking water.

It found E.coli contamination in 51 small private water supplies serving commercial buildings and public buildings. 

It is also particularly concerned that no E.coli testing was reported for another 711 small water supplies.

The EPA said this poses a serious risk to public health, particularly to vulnerable people such as the young and elderly.

Consuming water with E.coli in it generally leads to gastrointestinal illness, but in a small number of cases can result in severe and long-term kidney failure. 

The EPA said those responsible for private water supplies need to ensure their supply is on the local authority register and is tested at least annually.

It also wants local authorities to properly police and test the supplies and to make sure action is taken where contamination is found.

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E.coli in private water supplies EPA Dublin
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