Up to one in three private wells in Ireland are contaminated with E. coli bacteria, new data released by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revealed.
Moreover, the country has the highest rates of VTEC (Verotoxigenic E. coli) in water wells in Europe. This particular type of bacteria is among the most dangerous and can cause serious health consequences. The number of people infected with the variant strain of bacteria more than doubled in two years -- from 284 in 2011 to 704 in 2013, the Irish Times reported.
According to Dr. Una Fallon, chair of the National Drinking Water Group at the Health Service Executive, the bacteria causes an infection with symptoms such as abdominal cramps and diarrhea but it can also lead to kidney failure in children. Kidney failure develops in approximately 8 percent of patients.
On many occasions, E.coli contamination may go undetected if tests are not carried out because the contaminated water lacks a specific odor or color. EPA programme manager David Flynn advised all private well owners to test their water. About 50,000 wells have been contaminated with human or animal waste and owners should not underestimate the problem, as even though people who regularly consume water from these wells might develop immunity to some degree, visitors to the house are at risk of falling sick, Flynn said, quoted by the Irish Times.