Risk of illness if you drink contaminated water from private wells

Contaminated Water Private wellsThe EPA estimate  that 30% of private wells in Ireland are contaminated by E. coli arising from animal or human waste.

  • HSE reports a growing number of cases of VTEC – a particularly nasty form of E.coli.
  • Analysis of cases finds that patients are up to four times more likely to have consumed untreated water from private wells.

The EPA has developed a new assessment tool ‘Protect your Well’ and well owners are urged to use it to assess their private well and ensure they are not putting their health or the health of family and visitors at risk. 

Ireland has the highest incidence of VTEC in Europe.  

  • Since 2011, the HSE has reported a doubling of the number of VTEC cases in Ireland (284 in 2011, 554 in 2012 and 704 in 2013).
  • Animals, particularly cattle are the main source of VTEC and infection is spread either from direct animal contact or through contaminated food and water.
  • Person to person spread is also common.
  • In other countries the most common source of infection is through food outbreaks.

In Ireland, rural families are commonly affected and much of this is because of contaminated private wells. 

  • Sewage (septic tanks) and agricultural activities may give rise to of contaminated water.
  • Consumers of water from private wells at much greater risk of VTEC than those who drink water from mains supplies.
  • Disinfection kills all E. coli including VTEC and, while public water supplies are disinfected in treatment plants, not all private wells are.

More Information 

EPA Householder Information on Private Wells 

EPA Protecting Your Private Well