A chemical called Orthophosphate is to be added to the water supply in Limerick to help reduce the levels of lead found in the water. Lead pipe and lead fittings were used in many homes in Ireland up to the 1970’s. Irish Water has estimated that 200,000 households could have lead pipe and lead fittings in their home plumbing systems. This also means hundreds of thousands of people may be consuming dangerous levels of lead on a daily basis. Orthophosphate works by coating the inside of the lead pipe and sealing off the lead from leaching into the water. However, as beneficial as it is to reduce the amount of lead in drinking water, the chemical solution could create even more problems.
Orthophosphate is the inorganic form of phosphate and used heavily by farmers in fertilisers. Many rivers and lakes in Ireland are already affected by algae blooms which are caused primarily by the over use of fertilisers and intensive farming practices. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for aquatic plants and algae. However, only a very small amount is needed in the water and an excess of phosphorus can easily occur. Eutrophication or blue-green algae blooms lower the levels of dissolved oxygen in the water and can render the water uninhabitable by fish and other aquatic organisms. Most rivers in Limerick are affected by algae blooms and Lough Derg on the Shannon is particularly bad with warning signs posted on the banks of the lake. Algae blooms in fresh water can also produce potentially toxic cyanobacteria, which is a threat to human health.
Removing and replacing all lead pipe and fittings from the plumbing system in the home is the best solution. An alternative and in many cases, the lower cost option is to install a water filter or filtration system that will remove metals like lead and other contaminants which will ensure the drinking water supply is pure and safe to drink…Read More (PDF)