asked the Minister for the Environment if, in view of the danger to health, he has examined as a matter or extreme urgency the position of the domestic water supply in North Dublin which has been adulterated and polluted by the chemical phenol; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Private Notice Questions. - North Dublin Water Supply.
I am assured by the Dublin County Council that the traces of phenol found recently in the North Dublin water supply did not pose a danger to public health.
Dublin County Council are, by law, responsible for ensuring that public water supplies in North County Dublin are pure and wholesome. In response to inquiries my Department have been informed as follows:
Following complaints from consumers, traces of phenol were detected at Leixlip Treatment Works at about 5 p.m. on Saturday, 19 November 1983. Phenol reacts in chlorine, which is used in the treatment of water at Leixlip. This reaction gave rise to a medicinal taste and disinfectant odour in the drinking water and did not pose a danger to public health.
Dublin County Council eliminated the effects of phenol contamination by initiating an activated carbon treatment process to remove the taste and odour from North Dublin water supplies. The level of phenol in treated water leaving the Leixlip Works had fallen to an acceptable level by 9 p.m. on Saturday 19 November 1983. I understand the problem should be completely cleared up within the next few days — when any water containing phenol traces still in the Leixlip distribution system should be fully used up.
Tests on water from the River Liffey indicate that the phenol pollution has ceased. Dublin County Council have not, as yet, been able to trace the source of the phenol contamination. Phenol is a compound used in road tar, creosote, in certain industrial processes and in fungicides sprayed on vegetable crops. I am assured that the local authority is using its best endeavours to trace the contamination source involved and prevent a recurrence.
Will the Minister accept that this is the second occasion on which the presence of such a chemical has been noticed or observed in the water supply, that about a year and a half ago there was a similar presence of some creosotebased chemical in the water supply? Can the Minister assure the House that he will keep in touch with Dublin County Council so as to ensure that they have taken precautions: (1) to discover the origin of the chemical and (2) to guard against its reappearance?
Yes, I accept that there was a previous occurrence. I assure the Deputy that I share his concern. Already officials of my Department have been in contact with Dublin County Council. I intend to maintain that contact in order to monitor the situation.
I appreciate the manner in which the Minister is replying to my questions. Might I ask him if he would advise me in the course of, say, a couple of months of the final reports he receives from Dublin County Council?
I shall certainly have no hesitation in keeping the Deputy informed in this matter.
Is the Minister satisfied that the existing penalties are sufficient to act as a deterrent to anybody found guilty of polluting water supplies? Obviously somebody was behind this latest act of pollution.
The penalties being imposed are adequate to deal with the situation.
Could the Minister state what they are?
I think that is a separate question.
If the Deputy reads the appropriate Act he will see them.
My brief does not cover such details.
Would the Minister examine that aspect and let the public know.
Yes, I will certainly undertake to do that.