Around 1,000 local households in Limerick City have now been warned not to drink the water in their homes.
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Warning letters from Irish Water were delivered today to over 500 houses in Kileely on the north side of the City.
It comes less than a month after the same warning was issued to 400 or so homes in Ballynanty, also located on the city’s north side.
The houses in Kileely and Ballynanty were largely built in the 1950s and included lead pipes to connect the water supply to each household.
“As a precautionary measure, you are advised that it is wise to act as if the water at your tap has elevated levels of lead,” the letter advised householders in Kileely.
“Everybody should try to drink water with as little lead in it as possible. Drinking water with even small amounts of lead in it may not be completely safe,” Irish Water stated in the letter.
The legal limit of lead in drinking water in Europe was lowered by more than half on December 25th 2013 (from 25μg/l to 10μg/l [micrograms per litre]). This was done as part of a greater plan to reduce everybody’s lifetime exposure to lead to the lowest possible level.
“Lead can affect the development of a child’s brain leading to problems with learning, behaviour and attention. The risk is greatest for young children, infants and babies in the womb.”
“The risk to the brain is less in older children and adults but lead may harm the kidneys, may contribute to high blood pressure and has been linked to cancer.”
Irish Water advised people that where elevated lead levels are detected is ‘NOT to drink the water or use it for preparing food or diluted drinks (including baby formula feeds, ice cubes)’.
“However, this water can be used for toilet flushing, bathing, showering, laundry and dish-washing.”
Residents have also been warned that ‘boiling water does not remove lead’.
The HSE emphasised that pregnant women and young children in particular should not drink water suspected of elevated lead concentrations.
Irish Water and Limerick City & County Council confirmed that ‘there is no issue with lead levels in the water mains’ — but — ‘the issue arises as the water flows through lead connections and internal lead plumbing’.
Irish Water said it is ‘accelerating a programme of works to deal with the remaining lead service connections shared jointly by groups of houses.”
In the meantime, a temporary drinking water tap will be provided at the St Munchin’s Community Centre in Kileely Court.
Anyone effected can contact the Irish Water Customer Contact Call Centre on 1890 278 278.