Written Answers. - Water and Sewerage Schemes.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

411 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government the position in regard to the proposed sewerage scheme for Glenties, County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10898/03]

The Glenties sewerage scheme is included in my Department's water services investment programme 2002-2004 as a scheme to advance through planning. I understand that Donegal County Council has advertised for expressions of interest from consultants to prepare a preliminary report for the scheme.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

412 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if he will state the total number of fluoride determinations proposed by each of the 42 sanitary authorities in the 391 public supplies that add fluoride; the cost of monitoring each of the 391 public supplies, totalled for each sanitary authority and if this has been fully budgeted for; and the method by which individual members of the public in each sanitary authority area can view the background monitoring in a timely manner such as within one month of sampling. [10954/03]

Statutory responsibility for the provision of drinking water supplies and for upholding the prescribed quality standards rests with local sanitary authorities. Stringent drinking water standards are prescribed by the European Communities (Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption) Regulations 1988. The duty placed on sanitary authorities to take the necessary measures to ensure that drinking water meets these standards is performed under the general supervision of the EPA. The agency publishes a report annually on the quality of drinking water in Ireland, and a copy of its most recent report for the year 2001 is available in the Oireachtas Library. Copies of the report have been sent by the EPA to all sanitary authorities. By way of a circular letter which will issue shortly to sanitary authorities, my Department will draw specific attention to recommendations, including those in relation to fluoridation, made by the EPA in its report and urge their early implementation.

The EPA 2001 report is based on the results of some 146,000 individual tests on over 22,000 samples of drinking water taken from 2,440 supplies. The report confirms the fundamentally good quality of Irish drinking water, with an overall compliance rate of 94.3% with prescribed standards for all supplies, based on 14 principal parameters. The overall compliance rate in public water supplies with the fluoride standard was 95.5% in 2001, which represents an improvement from 94.0% in 2000.

The European Communities (Quality of Surface Water Intended for the Abstraction of Drinking Water) Regulations 1989 prescribe quality standards in relation to a variety of parameters, including fluorides, for surface fresh water used or intended for use in the abstraction of drinking water. The regulations also prescribe methods of analysis and minimum frequencies of sampling and analysis for the prescribed parameters. The monitoring for fluorides provides information on the background level of fluorides in raw water prior to treatment for use as drinking water. Implementation of these regulations is a matter for sanitary authorities under the general supervision of the EPA. Information is not available in my Department concerning the number of fluoride determinations proposed by each sanitary authority under these regulations or the associated costs.

The legislative basis for the use of fluoride in the treatment of public water supplies is the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960, under the remit of the Minister for Health and Children. Sanitary authorities fluoridate water supplies as agents of the health boards and the associated costs are recouped by the boards.

The Act requires that background fluoride levels be taken into account when fluoridating water supplies. According to the EPA 2001 report, it appears that data collected on fluoride levels in surface raw water sources are not being taken into account by sanitary authorities in the fluoridation of drinking water and that this is an oversight that needs to be remedied. This aspect of the EPA report will be brought to the attention of sanitary authorities by my Department.