Dáil Éireann - Volume 605 - 28 June, 2005
Written Answers - Water Quality.
Ms McManus Ms McManus
76. Ms McManus asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his plan of action for the improvement in the quality of groundwater sources, in particular for drinking purposes, particularly with regard to the high instance of faecal coliforms and to the guide limit exceedence of nitrate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22210/05]
Mr. Roche Mr. Roche
Mr. Roche:In general, where any person carries out an activity that involves a risk to groundwater, that person carries primary responsibility for protecting the groundwater against pollution. Among public authorities, responsibility for the protection of groundwater is assigned principally to local authorities under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts and related regulations. In addition, local authorities have statutory responsibilities for the provision of drinking water supplies, for upholding the quality standards prescribed by the European Communities drinking water regulations 2000 and for protection of drinking water sources, including groundwater drinking water sources.
The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, exercises general supervision of the performance by local authorities of their environmental protection functions and has responsibility for groundwater protection in the context of its own licensing, monitoring and other functions. Guidelines on the preparation of groundwater protection schemes have been developed by the EPA, the Geological Survey of Ireland and my Department and issued to local authorities.
Monitoring of the overall quality of groundwaters is undertaken by both the local authorities and the EPA in the context of its national groundwater quality monitoring programme. Data generated by the programme are included in the EPA reports, Water Quality in Ireland, copies of which are in the Oireachtas Library. The report for the period 2001-03 indicates localised pollution of groundwater in certain areas but no widespread pollution of particular aquifers.
In addition, monitoring is carried out by both local authorities and the EPA in the context of  monitoring the quality of drinking water supplies. The most recent EPA report on the quality of drinking water in Ireland, 2003, a copy of which is in the Oireachtas Library, confirms that the overall quality of drinking water in Ireland remains generally high. The overall compliance rate for all supplies in 2003 was 96.1%, an improvement of 0.2% on the 2002 compliance rate. The report also confirms continued improvement in the compliance rate for faecal coliforms in both public and group water supplies. The 2003 report confirmed over 99% compliance with the nitrate standard in drinking water schemes.
The majority of problems encountered with drinking water supplies in Ireland occur in private group water schemes. While breaches in water quality standards in these schemes are generally not extreme, my Department is giving high priority to the remediation of quality problems where they occur. Under my Department’s rural water programme, a record €125 million is provided in 2005 for improving the quality of rural water supplies, particularly the privately sourced group water schemes.
In addition, a national nitrates action programme is being developed to give further effect to the nitrates directive, 91/676/EEC, which is designed to protect waters against pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources. I expect to be in a position to submit a final version of the programme to the European Commission shortly. The programme is due to come into effect on 1 January 2006.
The Water Services Bill 2003 which has been passed by Seanad Éireann and is awaiting scheduling for Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann contains a number of provisions to address or facilitate source protection of water supplies. The Bill provides that it will be an offence to cause water in a waterworks, including streams, wells and reservoirs, to become polluted. The Bill also places an obligation on occupiers of premises to ensure that drains and treatment systems, including septic tanks, are maintained in such condition as to ensure that they do not cause a risk to human health or the environment.
Dáil Éireann 605 Written Answers Water Quality.