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Investigation of health impacts of private ground water schemes

The health risks associated with small-scale drinking water supplies depend upon a variety of factors including: the type of contaminant, the contamination source and loading rate, the type, location and construction of the water scheme, the presence or absence of water treatment and the awareness (or lack thereof) of the associated health risks amongst consumers. The main contaminants of concern in terms of human health and this research project are the microbial pathogens, which include: Bacterial contaminants i.e. E. coli 0157:H; Viral pathogens i.e. Rotavirus; and Protozoan organisms i.e. Cryptosporidium.

Additionally, inorganic contaminants with the potential to instigate adverse human health impacts include nitrates, fluoride and arsenic.Vulnerable population groups to waterborne illness include: infants and children under 5, due to low resistance to disease; elderly persons, and pPeople suffering from chronic diseases or with depressed/suppressed immune systems.

The subject of this research is an assessment of the health risks associated with private rural drinking water supplies in Ireland. Methodologies previously applied in the USA and Europe will be applied to existing water quality data from Ireland in order to quantify the health risks associated with respect to microbial contamination of groundwater supplies. A quantitative risk assessment model will be developed and subsequently linked to the vulnerability to pollution of the water source in order to ascertain whether an arithmetic or geometric correlation/concurrence exists within the Irish context.

In order to establish the level of public awareness regarding water contamination and health, a survey will be prepared and completed with a view to producing a series of guidelines for private consumers on the location, implementation and operation of new well schemes.

Project coordinator: Associate Prof. Bruce Misstear