Erin Brockovich has waded into the toxin-tinged drinking water of the North West warning “short-term exposure” to potentially carcinogenic chemicals found to have exceeded the recommended safe levels, is something to be worried about, particularly if you’re pregnant.
The veteran environmental activist posted a warning via her social media profile after drinking water supplies at Greencastle, Rathmullen and Letterkenny were among samples found to have exceedences of the cancer-linked Trihalomethanes, which are formed when chlorine used to disinfect supplies reacts with organic matter found in raw water.
Tests carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last August found a drinking supply in Greencastle had 203 micrograms of Trihalomethanes per litre (ug/L): more than twice the 100 ug/L recommended. Two samples taken in Rathmullen came in at over 150 ug/L and four samples in Letterkenny exceeded the 100 ug/L limit; there were 17 exceedences across Donegal.
In her post, Ms Brockovich stated: “My Irish cousins... Trihalomethanes may result in increased cancer levels after long periods of consumption...but please don’t be fooled by this dodge of responsibility and factual sharing of information by your government!
“Trihalomethanes are far more dangerous to pregnant women. Studies have demonstrated woman exposed to Drinking Water over 80 ug/L of trihalomethanes expense a greater risk for miscarriage in the first trimester and low birth weight in the second and third trimester... beware or very real “short term” exposure!”
Asked about the exceedences in the North West, Irish Water says it plans investing 73million euros in drinking water supplies across Donegal over the next 4 years.
It also points to the EPA and Health Service Executive’s view that not chlorinating water supplies adequately would be more of a health risk than the resultant Trihalomethanes.
In a statement the Irish water company said: “For the first time in Ireland, Irish Water has put in place a prioritised programme of investment which will address all inadequacies in drinking water parameters including THMs.
“The Irish Water Business Plan up to 2021 sets out a clear commitment to reduce the number of schemes on the EPA Remedial Action List to zero. This includes an investment of 327 million by Irish Water in upgrading water supplies which are at risk from THMs.
“Trihalomethanes or THMs are typically formed by the reaction of chlorine (used to disinfect drinking water) with natural organic matter such as algae, twigs or leaves etc. which may be present in the water. Approximately 380,000 customers are connected to schemes listed on the EPA Remedial Action List which have exceeded the parametric limit for THMs.
“The EU commission has recognised that Irish Water publicly provides water quality information to its customers in relation to all drinking water parameters including THMs on its website. Full details of all drinking water parameters for all water supplies nationally are available on https://www.water.ie/water-supply/water-quality/
“Irish Water takes its guidance on the treatment of drinking water in the best interests of public health from the HSE, EPA and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In specific reference to THMs the WHO has advised ‘…adequate disinfection should never be compromised in attempting to meet guidelines for THMs...it is recommended that THM levels in drinking water be kept as low as practicable.’
“According to the EPA and HSE Joint Position Paper on THMs: ‘The real risk of inadequate chlorination, which can occur as a reaction to breaches of parametric values, outweighs the risk associated with THMs and should be avoided.
“‘A balance must be struck between an uncertain, small and long-term risk associated with elevated THMs and the significant, large, immediate and serious risks associated with inadequate chlorination such as eColi outbreaks.’”