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Last Monday when Graham Hawkins turned on the kitchen tap at home in Galtymore Road in Drimnagh, he got a strong smell that reminded him of a swimming pool, he says.
“When I turned on the cold tap the bang of chlorine off it was unbelievable,” says Hawkins, who works as a plumber.
Hawkins and his wife both drank the water from the tap and reported feeling unwell a few days later, he says, believing the illness was directly related to the water.
From Cherry Orchard to Thomas Street and at numerous spots in between, residents are concerned about foul-tasting water. However a spokesperson for Irish Water has said that drinking water in Dublin is safe, and tested daily.
Irish Water refused to comment on water quality in specific neighbourhoods as well as if there are any remedial works underway, leading some politicians to question what they see as a lack of transparency on the part of the organisation.
You Get Used to It
In neighbourhoods throughout Dublin, some local residents are reporting different tastes from their drinking water.
Clare McLaughlin, from Drimnagh, also finds there’s a smell of chlorine off the water.
“Some days it can seem stronger, but you get used to it,” she says
The drinking water in Dublin is safe and comes from the “GDA [Greater Dublin Area] water treatment plants”, says a spokesperson for Irish Water. “Drinking water produced at these plants is fully compliant with drinking water regulations and is safe to drink.”
“Water produced at the treatment plant is tested daily in conjunction with extensive monitoring in the distribution network,” says the spokesperson.
An Irish Water spokesperson didn’t answer a question as to whether they have increased the amount of chlorine in the water in Drimnagh, instead pointed to a general statement, issued on 14 August about the taste and smell of drinking water.
“Mouldy and Earthy”
Sylvia O’Sullivan, from Inchicore Road in Kilmainham says her water tastes “mouldy and earthy”, by phone on Thursday.
She reported the issue to Irish Water on Monday 27 July and some of her neighbours reported it too, she says.
“I rang back a couple of weeks later and they said there was no organic or chemical matter, but they said there was an engineer looking into it,” she says.
Last week she says she heard from a neighbour that Irish Water was carrying out works in the area and that they had fixed a problem locally, she says.
Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan says he too has had complaints from residents in Inchicore and Ballyfermot, who also report mouldy and earthy tasting water.
That issue is now being investigated, according to a response that Irish Water sent to Doolan.
“Irish Water is aware of a number of recent reports from customers in relation to the odour and/or taste of drinking water in parts of Dublin which we are currently investigating,” says an Irish Water customer service representative by email on 13 August.
The water is safe to drink and is tested daily, he says. “Some people may be more sensitive to changes in how their drinking water tastes or smells.”
A change in taste or smell might indicate that Irish Water has changed the treatment processes, such as adding more chlorine, he says.
Or it could be due to the impact of the weather or the water picking up some organic matter or minerals, says the Irish Water customer representative.
On the Doorsteps
Residents in Ballyfermot raised the issue of water quality on the doorsteps during the general election in February 2020, says Green Party TD Patrick Costello.
More recently in June residents in Rialto said their water was “cloudy and dirty” with “solid matter” in it and if a glass of water was left sitting that “solid matter” would float to the bottom, he says.
He contacted Irish Water about that issue in early June, he says. When his constituents phoned Irish Water they were instructed to boil the water, but no boil water notices were issued, he says.
The cause of the problem is an ongoing lack of investment in the infrastructure, he says. A lot of investment is required because much of the old pipe network needs to be replaced, he says.
But there is also a problem with transparency, says Costello.
He says that Irish Water should be more transparent about what the issues are and what they are doing to fix them.
“People would understand if Irish Water were able to tell them what is actually going on,” says Costello. “Instead of saying that everything is fine when residents can turn on their tap and see for themselves that it is not.”