Written Answers. - Water Quality.

Ciarán Cuffe

Ceist:

347 Mr. Cuffe asked the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government if he will request a derogation from the EU Commission with respect to the Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC, due to the fact that only seven of the 42 sanitary authorities currently comply with the requirements for aluminium; and his plans to implement the requirements of EU Directive 98/83/EC which obliges member states in a number of areas (details supplied). [19227/03]

I refer to the replies to Question No. 702 of 7 May 2003 and Question No. 705 of 10 June 2003.

EU Council Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption has been substantially transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Drinking Water) Regulations 2000 which will come into operation on 1 January 2004 and which prescribe quality standards for two microbiological and 26 chemical parameters in relation to drinking water supplies. Article 4 of the regulations requires compliance with these quality standards except where a departure has been granted by the EPA under Article 5. A departure cannot be granted in relation to a microbiological parameter or in any case where the departure could cause a potential danger to public health.

The regulations prescribe quality standards for a further 16 "indicator parameters", including aluminium, and require that the necessary remedial action be taken in relation to a water supply which fails to meet the prescribed standard for such a parameter having particular regard to any potential danger to human health. A failure to comply with a quality standard for an indicator parameter does not constitute a contravention of Article 4 of the regulations and the granting of a departure in relation to such a standard does not therefore arise. Aluminium is not regarded as an essential, health-related parameter. The standard for aluminium of 0.2 milligrams per litre in drinking water provides a compromise between the practical use of aluminium salts in water treatment and discolouration of distributed water. The status of aluminium as an indicator parameter in the directive is based on the World Health Organisation's guidelines for drinking water quality and the opinion of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the European Commission.
In all cases where a sanitary authority considers that a drinking water supply constitutes a potential danger to public health, irrespective of whether or not a prescribed standard has been contravened, the authority is obliged by Article 8 of the regulations to inform and advise consumers and to ensure that the use of the supply is prohibited or restricted, as appropriate, or that such other action as is necessary is taken to protect human health.