herald

Friday 20 September 2019

Vital water treatment chemicals stockpiled as hard Brexit looms

The chemicals are needed to make drinking water safe
The chemicals are needed to make drinking water safe

Irish Water is stockpiling chemicals needed to treat drinking water.

The move comes ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit.

The utility said its suppliers are stockpiling the chemicals to ensure any impact on drinking water is minimal.

It is the first time that Irish Water has publicly acknowledged that a no-deal Brexit could affect water treatment.

However, the utility stressed that the likely impact would be "minimal".

Irish Water has also admitted that its suppliers are having to find alternative sources for some of the chemicals, currently imported from Britain.

About 90pc of chemicals used to treat Irish drinking water are sourced from mainland Europe, according to Irish Water.

While the majority of these chemicals are delivered via ship directly to Ireland, the remainder are imported via the UK landbridge, which many exporters and importers use to transport goods to and from continental Europe.

These are likely to be affected by the expected delays at ports if the UK goes through with a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

"Our suppliers who utilise the landbridge are currently ensuring that, insofar as possible, they have sufficient stocks of chemicals," said a spokesperson for Ervia, Irish Water's parent company.

"Stores will continue to be built over the coming weeks to ensure a minimal, if any, impact on water treatment."

The remaining 10pc of chemicals used by Irish Water are sourced from the UK.

"Our suppliers are exploring alternative sources in Europe," said the spokesperson.

Critical

"At this point, there are no immediate concerns as to the availability of the most critical water treatment chemicals in the event of a hard Brexit."

The comments were made in response to queries from the Herald about Irish Water's preparedness for a possible no-deal Brexit.

Leaked UK government papers that emerged last Sunday outlined concerns around fresh water shortages in the UK due to possible interruptions in the importation of water treatment chemicals.

In February, it emerged that Northern Ireland Water has been stockpiling purification chemicals as part of its Brexit plans.

It is building up months' of additional stocks at its premises and at its suppliers' warehouses.

Irish Water has been working on contingency plans to ensure there are sufficient stocks of chemicals to treat water in this country for the past year.

"Following these meetings, we are confident that there will be no interruption to the provision of water and wastewater services nationally as a result of Brexit," said the Ervia spokesperson.

"However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely over the coming weeks."

In order to make raw water taken from rivers and lakes drinkable, Irish Water must carry out a complex process to ensure it is not contaminated.

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