Dáil Éireann - Volume 644 - 18 December, 2007
Written Answers. - Water Quality.
Deputy Dinny McGinley Deputy Dinny McGinley
Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on a nationwide assessment of water treatment plants to ensure safe drinking water can be provided in view of a recent EPA report that found 56% of groundwater to be polluted, groundwater which provides about a quarter of all drinking water here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35255/07]
Deputy John Gormley Deputy John Gormley
Deputy John Gormley: Local authorities are responsible for the operation and maintenance of treatment plants for  public water supplies. Earlier this year, I introduced new drinking water regulations and related monitoring requirements to strengthen controls in this sector. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now has direct supervisory responsibility for local authority water supplies and the regulations give powers of both supervision and enforcement to the Agency in relation to local authorities’ performance of their functions regarding drinking water. While local authorities continue to be responsible for supervising group scheme supplies, the Agency is required to supervise the performance by local authorities of their monitoring functions, and all monitoring programmes are now subject to its approval.
My Department and the EPA are examining the latest drinking water quality results for public supplies with a view to cataloguing those at greatest risk from E-Coli or other chemical exceedences as well as cryptosporidium. I expect this analysis to be completed within the next few months. The objective is to develop an action programme which identifies an appropriate solution in each case that will guarantee security and safety of supply. This could involve abandoning an existing source, upgrading a treatment plant or improving the operation and management regime.
I recently introduced a contingency funding arrangement under the Water Services Investment Programme, which will apply to any infrastructural works urgently required on foot of the current risk profiling exercise. The EPA will oversee implementation of all remedial actions as part of its enhanced supervisory function under the new regulations. This will include any necessary enforcement action against a local authority where the Agency is not satisfied that improvements either to operation and management or to infrastructure are being advanced with sufficient urgency.
The protection of surface waters and groundwaters is being considerably strengthened by the ongoing implementation of the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations, which came into effect on 1 February 2006, and provide statutory support for good farming practice to protect waters against pollution from agricultural sources. The Regulations include measures such as:
set periods when land application of fertilisers is prohibited
storage requirements for livestock manure, and
monitoring of the effectiveness of the measures in terms of agricultural practice and impact on water quality.
The Regulations also apply limits on the land application of fertilisers and include provisions  for protection of boreholes, springs and wells and vulnerable areas on karst limestone aquifers. Implementation of the Regulations is supported by an enhanced package of financial supports for farmers by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and by the cross-compliance inspections carried out by that Department.
Comprehensive programmes of measures to address all sources of water pollution are being prepared in the context of the preparation of river basin management plans under the Water Framework Directive. A report titled “Water Matters” was issued in June 2007 for each river basin district. The reports indicate the significant water management issues identified in each district and the measures which might need to be taken to address them.
Water treatment plants are currently subject to an increasing level of regulatory supervision and assessment and I will continue to review the measures necessary to ensure safe drinking water and protection of groundwater.
Question No. 116 answered with Question No. 66.
Dáil Éireann 644 Written Answers. Water Quality.