Three private water supplies failed E. coli standards

THREE private water supplies in Donegal failed to meet the standard for E. coli last year, according to a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA has released their ‘Drinking Water Quality in Private Group Schemes and Small Private Supplies 2021’ which found that not enough is being done by local authorities to address water quality failures. There are in total 45 private schemes in Donegal – four group schemes and 41 small private supplies.

There were three fails across all private supplies in Donegal last year because of E. coli contamination, indicating that the water supply has not been properly disinfected. This gives the county a compliance rate of 91 per cent, below the national average of 95.4 per cent.


There was one breach for failing to meet the standard for Trihalomethanes (THMs). THMs are a by-product of the treatment process and are formed where there is an excess of organic matter in the water source. One private water supply, Townawilly, had a THM rate of 133ug/l over the limit of 100ug/l. This water is sourced from Lough Amnicheen in the south of the county and serves approximately 200 people.

There were two supplies in Donegal not monitored at all which equates to five per cent of the private supplies in the county.
Throughout 2021 there was one direction issued by Donegal County Council and three boil notices issued by the local authority which affected a population of 473.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said: “Compliance with drinking water standards in private supplies for E. coli and THMs hasn’t improved in recent years. It is essential that works to improve water quality are carried out as soon as possible to eliminate serious risks to people’s health. Private water suppliers are obliged to make sure their drinking water is clean and wholesome for consumers. Local authorities must investigate supplies that fail to meet drinking water quality standards and, where necessary, follow up with enforcement action to protect public health.”
Funding is available to group water schemes and household well owners for improvements to their supplies through the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme (MARWP). During the 2019-2021 MARWP funding cycle over 60 per cent (€36 million) of funding available for infrastructural improvements went unused by water suppliers nationally.

Noel Byrne, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said: “Water quality in private supplies consistently lags behind public water quality.

“It is disappointing to see that €36 million of funding was not used by suppliers to address infrastructural needs at problematic private supplies. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage needs to complete its review of rural drinking water services, with the purpose of providing direction and support to water suppliers and to eliminate public health risks.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

The High Court has ordered fugitive waste collector, Jim Ferry, to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to enter his land to investigate an illegal dump with...

Ms Duddy lives only 500 metres from a wind turbine at the Corkermore site, half way between Ardara and...


Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland