Private Supplies - Risks for Health & Business
Using Private Supplies of Water can have Major Risks for Health and for Business
There is evidence to suggest that some commercial premises are moving to the use of ground water supplies (wells), without an appreciation of the risks to human health, or the relevant legal obligations.
Well water, even from a deep well, is not free from the risk of faecal contamination. The risk is greatest in areas where the rock is limestone, the soil cover is shallow and there are many sources of faecal contamination (septic tanks, agricultural animals). Many businesses may think that they have a safe well because they have test results that are clear of faecal contamination, but this is a mistake. Well water that has a clear test at one time may be very heavily contaminated within hours if there is heavy rainfall.
Businesses may also feel that they are protected if they have on site water treatment facilities such as filtration, ultraviolet light or chlorination. However, all the available systems can fail if they are not very carefully monitored and maintained, all of them have limitations and they can be overwhelmed if the water source becomes heavily contaminated.
There are serious legal obligations if you propose to provide drinking water to the public from a private source. You are required under law to ensure that the water is safe to drink and to verify that the treatment is working properly. In addition, you are required to obtain full planning permission before sinking a well for non-domestic purposes.
It is very important to note that, by setting up a private supply, a business could potentially contaminate a public water supply, if there is a connection between the two supplies. Where a private well is developed, water from the private source must be prevented from infiltrating the public supply and even when non-return valves are fitted, there is still a serious contamination risk to the public supply.
- If a private wlell is used it must be monitored on a regular basis to ensure its potability and compliance with the Drinking Water Regulations. Well water cannot be considered reliably safe, even if the well has had a number or previously clear laboratory tests.
- Treatment systems require maintenance by a suitably qualified person and may fail, in which case the provider could be responsible for providing contaminated water to customers or contaminating a public supply.
- The use of contaminated water for activities such as ice making, food preparation, brushing of teeth or just for drinking can result in serious and possibly life threatening infection.
- Anyone who provides water for public consumption from a private water supply is required under law to ensure that the water is safe to drink.
For queries in relation to the legal requirements relevant to the provision of a private water source for a public supply, please contact the Water Services Section on 053 9196315 or 053 9196600.
Further information and advise on the use of monitoring of private water supplies in business premises, is available from the Health Service Executive – Environmental Health Department on 053 9123522.