CHEMICALS used in the preparation of drinking water were responsible for sediment coming loose in water mains, causing recent incidents of discoloured drinking water across Cork city, Irish Water has admitted to The Echo.
Irish Water did not respond to a question asking precisely what chemicals had been used, but the company said the health of “customers” was the company’s first priority.
For several months, residents in multiple locations across the city have reported discoloured water coming from their taps.
Incidents of brown or orange drinking water date to at least early June of this year, when Churchfield residents complained of discoloured water coming from their drinking supply.
Since then, there have been reports of discoloured water from mains supplies in Sunday’s Well, Ballyvolane, the South Douglas Road, Barrack Street, Glanmire, Fair Hill, Blackpool, Wilton, and Shandon.
Responding to a series of questions from The Echo, Irish Water has now admitted that the discolouration of drinking supplies across the city was caused by chemicals used in the preparation of drinking water. Irish Water said it and Cork City Council had become aware last month of an increase in reports of discoloured water in some areas of Cork city.
“Investigations were carried out at the time in the affected areas to identify the source of these water issues and remedial actions were carried out,” a spokesperson said.
“The investigations found that following a recent upgrade of infrastructure in Cork city, where a number of new treatment systems are being brought online, that water being produced was impacting on some of the older pipes in the network, thus causing sediment to come loose and cause a discolouration of the water being supplied to customers.”
When asked why “water being produced” would cause sediment to come loose, Irish Water said: “The new infrastructure brought online required an alteration of the chemistry involved in water treatment”.
The company said investigations carried out by Irish Water and Cork City Council “showed that the water had a tendency to cause sediment to come loose and cause discolouration in the network.
“As part of our remedial works, we have altered the chemistry involved and are monitoring the results carefully and we have already noticed an improvement.”
When The Echo asked whether the city’s drinking supply had been contaminated, Irish Water said: “The water supply in Cork city is not contaminated and describing it as such would be misleading and cause undue concern to the public.”
Irish Water said people should not drink discoloured water and apologised “for any inconvenience”.
The company’s spokesperson said: “Discoloured water is always going to be a possibility with older pipes and there may [be] other cases not related to this.”
Irish Water said anyone experiencing discoloured water should contact their customer care team on 1800 278 278.
When asked why it had not issued a boil notice, the company said it had provided water samples to the Environmental Protection Agency and the HSE, adding “the decision to issue, and lift, a boil water notice (BWN) is made in consultation and agreement with the HSE and the results in this case did not warrant a BWN”.
Workers’ Party Cork city councillor Ted Tynan said Irish Water’s statement did not address precisely what chemicals had caused sediment to enter the water supply.
Socialist TD for Cork North-Central, Mick Barry, said it was unacceptable that Irish Water was only now admitting they were responsible for an event which had caused such widespread discolouration of drinking water in Cork city. Cork City Council was contacted for comment.