Brussels ups ante on chemical pollution of Ireland's drinking water

The European Commission has upgraded a formal complaint over the high level of chemical contamination in some Irish drinking water.

At issue is the presence of trihalomethanes (THMs) in drinking water zones supplying nearly 300,000 people.

THMs are formed when organic matter, such as suspended peat sediment, are treated with chlorine at water treatment plants. They are harmful to human health and are usually ingested by drinking, but can be inhaled in the bath or shower, or when washing clothes and dishes.

High THM levels have been linked to liver, kidneys and central nervous system diseases, bladder and colon cancer risks, as well as damage to foetal growth.

Although some progress has been made, Ireland has not been complying with the rules since December 2003, Brussels announced in a statement: “The Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to Ireland, which now has four months to remedy the situation. Should Ireland fail to take appropriate action, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.”