Lead water pipes must be replaced at a cost of €500m
Thousands of kilometres of lead piping, supplying the country's drinking water, will have to be replaced by next year at a cost in excess of €500m.
New EU regulations will restrict the current permitted 25mgs of lead per litre of water down to just 10mgs per litre.
Under the new regulations, which come into effect in 2013, at least 63 water systems around the country would be in breach of the standards unless their pipes are replaced.
Lead in water is a health hazard, particularly for young children and foetuses whose developing brains can be affected by lead poisoning.
The Environmental Protection Agency is now working with the local authorities and the Health Service Executive to identify and replace all lead pipes in advance of the December 25 deadline in 2013.
At the moment about 98pc of the State's water supplies are compliant with the current regulations, but at least 5,500km of piping will need to be replaced to meet the new standards.
Just before Christmas, a monitoring programme by Fingal County Council identified one house where the lead exceeds two and a half times the current permitted level.
This would be more than seven times the permitted limit under the new regulations.