SERIOUS incidents at two water treatment plants in recent weeks have made residents of one town sick and put the health of others at risk.
Incidents at the Ballymore Eustace factories, which supply parts of Dublin city with potable water, and at Creagh, which serves Gorey in County Wexford, were not made public until Friday evening.
The factories are run by Dublin City Council and Wexford County Council on behalf of Irish Water and in both incidents Irish Water was only informed a few days later.
Health and environmental authorities were also excluded.
The Health Service Executive, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the two local authorities and Irish Water have all been involved in resolving the issues since their inception.
Housing Minister Darragh said on Friday evening he had received a letter from the EPA which was of great concern.
His department said: “The EPA said that a dismal failure in the management oversight, operational control and responsiveness of two public drinking water treatment plants allowed unsafe water to enter. enter the public drinking water supply and endanger public health “.
Mr O’Brien has received reports from agencies involved in incident management and has requested more from Dublin City Council and Wexford County Council.
He is meeting with the managing director of Irish Water and the managing directors of the two local authorities on Saturday to discuss the matter.
“I find the deficiencies identified by the EPA worrying and unacceptable – the safety of people is paramount,” he said.
Irish Water chief executive Eamon Gallen said the EPA and HSE were notified as soon as the utility became aware of the incidents, but admitted that was not enough.
“In these two incidents, Irish Water and our partners in the local authorities failed to meet the standards we set for ourselves,” he said.
“We operate a service level agreement where Irish Water and our local authority partners are required to follow all guidelines to ensure that drinking water incidents are immediately reported to the EPA and HSE.
“In both cases, the late notification to Irish Water of problems related to the disinfection process in the factories, potentially puts public health at risk. “
The problems at the Creagh plant occurred between August 19 and August 24 and allowed water that had not been properly disinfected to enter the public drinking water supply system.
Irish Water was not notified until August 26. By that time, reports of illness in the community had been received, but it was too late to order a boil water advisory as the problem had been corrected.
In the case of Ballymore Eustace, issues with the batter and cryptosporidium disinfection system occurred on August 20, but were not reported at all.
Irish Water only became aware of the problem when another problem was reported 12 days later.
The issues at both plants have been resolved, but raise questions about communications between Irish Water and local water authority staff which have not yet been fully integrated into the utility.
Similar communication failures were highlighted when contamination issues at the Leixlip plant put 600,000 people on a series of boil water alerts in late 2019.