Minister admits boil water notice may stretch beyond weekend but rules out water tankers

Update: Boil water notices for residents in Dublin and in other counties could remain in place into the weekend and beyond, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Mr Murphy said the boil water notice for 600,000 homes, the largest ever issued, will be temporary but may have to remain in place for a much smaller group of homes for several days and into the bank holiday weekend.

“It is a massive inconvenience to an awful lot of people. It is a precautionary notice. There is a 72-hour period in which three clear tests will be needed before the all-clear can be given,” he said in the Dáil.

Mr Murphy ruled out the need for water tankers to be deployed to assist the 600,000 homes affected by the largest ever boil water notice in the history of the State.

The notice, affecting large tracts of North Dublin and its surrounding counties came into place on Tuesday but it emerged in the Dáil that the failure at a water treatment plant in Leixlip emerged on Monday.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, responding to Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary and Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald during Leaders' Questions, said he was unaware if the boil water notice issued this week was linked to a previous failure at the plant in March.

Ms McDonald, reading from an audit published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that in March a pump failure led to the lowering of a cryptosporidium barrier at the Leixlip plant.

Mr Calleary hit out at the failure of Irish Water to adequately cope with the response from the public once the notice was issued, citing difficulties in reading their maps of affected areas, and the fact the Irish Water website crashed.

Earlier: HSE issue advice after boil water notice hits 600,000

The HSE have issued advice for the 600,000 people affected by the boil water notice in the north-east of the country.

An issue at one of Irish Water's Leixlip Water Treatment Plant has lead to the boil water notice in parts of Fingal, areas in Dublin City Council, parts of South Dublin County Council, parts of Kildare and Dunboyne in Meath.

The HSE said: "The drinking water produced at the water treatment plant may contain cysts of cryptosporidium and giardia.

"These may cause gastrointestinal infections with symptoms such as diarrhoea and stomach cramps. People who develop such symptoms should consult their General Practitioners for testing and treatment."

They have advised food businesses and childcare operators that they must provide a potable supply of water, ie a water supply that is suitable for drinking purposes or for use in connection with food or food equipment.

They said that businesses must ensure that all water used for food preparation and consumption is from a supply that is from an approved and safe source.

They said: "Disused private wells should not be used until the water has been tested and deemed satisfactory."

    Important points for businesses

  • 1. Only boiled or bottled water should preferably be used for food preparation.
  • 2. If you have any doubt about the water supply that is available or if it is subject to an official Boil Water Notice, this water if intended for use for direct drinking purposes must be boiled before use. After the water is boiled, if it is not for use immediately it must be kept in suitable clean containers and protected from risk of contamination. Please note boiled water cannot be kept indefinitely.
  • 3. Ice must only be made from boiled or bottled water.
  • 4. Equipment, worktops, chopping boards, or other surfaces that come into direct or indirect contact with food must be cleaned and sanitised using this supplied water that has been boiled before use or bottled water.
  • 5. Areas that do not come in contact with foodstuffs can be cleaned using any tank water supplied without it having to be boiled.
  • 6. The use of disposable utensils e.g. paper plates, cups etc is also recommended as a short term measure to reduce the need for washing up.
  • 7. Suitable antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer must be used for the washing of hands at all wash hand basins in the premises including those for customer use.
  • 8. Food-workers/childcare workers should ensure that they wash their hands frequently; if no tap water is available they should use the water supply from water tankers if available, bottled water or hand wipes/sanitizers.
  • 9. Provision of water must also be supplied for the efficient use of toilet and wash hand basin facilities.
  • 10. Please note in some instances at the initial stages of a disruption to the mains water supply, stored water may still be available to wash hand basins; this water must NOT be used for drinking, ice or food preparation purposes.

The HSE also advised that in preparing formula feeds for infants and babies that water from a water tanker, if provided in designated areas, or bottled water brought to a 'rolling' boil and cooled beforehand should be used.

Bottled water can also be used to make up infant formula. All bottled water, with the exception of natural mineral water, is regulated to the same standard as drinking water.

It is best not to use bottled water labelled as ‘Natural Mineral Water’ as it can have high levels of sodium (salt) and other minerals, although it rarely does. ‘Natural Mineral Water’ can be used if no other water is available, for as short a time as possible, as it is important to keep babies hydrated.

If bottled water is used to make up infant formula it should be boiled once (rolling boil for 1 minute), and cooled in the normal way.

For sterilising baby feed equipment, they said that tanker water should be brought to a rolling boil for one minute and cooled. It can be then be used in steam sterilisers or cold water sterilisation systems. Bottled water can also be used for these purposes.

They said: "Boiling is another method of sterilising baby bottles. All the bottle-feeding items need to be boiled for a minimum of 10 minutes. You must have a separate pan, only for the purpose of boiling these items.

"Again once you have brought the tanker water or stored tap water to a rolling boil for 1 minute the feeding items can then be submerged in this pan and boiled for a further 10 minutes. Always wash your hands before removing any sterilised equipment"

    What are the symptoms of cryptosporidiosis?
  • The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhoea.
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach cramps or pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Some people with cryptosporidiosis will have no symptoms at all and the symptoms generally begin two to 10 days after infection.

Giardiasis symptoms occur between 7-10 days (usually 1-3 days) after exposure.

    What are the symptoms of giardiasis?
  • diarrhoea
  • foul smelling greasy stools
  • flatulence
  • nausea
  • Diarrhoea can be prolonged leading to temporary malabsorption.

Anyone diagnosed with giardiasis should practice scrupulous hand hygiene at home and in work as it can be readily passed between people. People can return to work once their bowel motions have been solid for 48 hours.

Earlier: Boil water notice for 600,000 may not be lifted for days

A boil water notice for parts of the greater Dublin area may not be lifted for a number of days.

Irish Water issued the warning to 600,000 people yesterday, after an issue at one of its treatment plants in Kildare.

The boil water notice covers parts of Fingal, areas in Dublin City Council, parts of South Dublin County Council, parts of Kildare and Dunboyne in Meath.

It follows a mechanical fault a water treatment plant in Leixlip in Kildare.

Eamon Gallen, General Manager at Irish Water, said it is unlikely the notice will be lifted today and it could be in place for a few days.

He said: "We would be hopeful it doesn't go into the Bank Holiday weekend, it is the HSE that makes this call and we would be fully supportive of of their decision.

"The tests at the moment are clear and indications are positive. The HSE, the EPA, Fingal County Council all say we want this boil notice lifted, but we have to err on the side of caution, we have to make sure the safety of the public is priority number one.

"We have to make sure the water is up to standard that it needs to be before the notice can be lifted."

Fingal County Cllr. Duncan Smith says people are stocking up on water, saying: "My phone lit up last night when the notice went out, people panicked wondering if it affected parts of Swords, all of Swords, all of Fingal.

"There were, I suppose it was reminiscent of the 'Beast from the East', there were pictures last night of empty water shelves from the local Tesco down in Holywell and I'm sure that's the same in other shops, people are going out making sure they are stocked up on bottled water."

Irish Water has said that problem has been fixed, but the untreated water that made its way into the system must now be flushed out.

Yvonne Harris, from Irish Water, said it could pose a risk to people's health if consumed.

Ms Harris said: "There is a risk that there would be bugs in the water, cryptosperidium is the one that people would be familiar with and there is a second bug.

"We hope that this would not impact our customers, but if anyone is feeling unwell or has concerns they should visit their GP."

Green Party MEP for Dublin, Ciaran Cuffe, said the fault at Irish Water's plant in Kildare raises questions about the quality of its infrastructure.

Mr Cuffe said: "Dublin's water supply has suffered from a chronic lack of investment over many decades.

"I think Irish Water need to show us very clearly they are going to minimise the chance of an instant like this reoccurring and show us they are putting taxpayers' money in the right place to safeguard our water supply."

Irish Water says the water quality will be tested over the coming days and the boil water notice will be removed once it is deemed safe to do so.

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