|Vol 7, No.7, 15.2.01, p5
DRINKING water being supplied to a new European food safety headquarters in Ireland is polluted with animal waste, according to tests.
Environment watchdogs say the water supply to the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Agency, currently under construction, is in breach of EU rules and have taken the Irish government to court in an attempt to prove it.
The 160 officials who work for the agency are due to move from Dublin to their new base in Kiltale early next year. The headquarters will include a crèche for the children of staff.
Commission tests indicate that the water supplied to the site, where an Irish government office is already based, falls foul of faecal coliform bacteria standards laid down in a 1980 Union law.
"That means you can get sick if you drink the water," said one official.
The Kiltale issue is just part of a complex legal battle the Commission is waging over the way drinking water is supplied to rural regions.
According to Commission officials, around 150,000 Irish people currently get their drinking water from polluted sources. The government argues the water is provided by private organisations, known as group water schemes, and so is exempt from Union law. A legal ruling on the matter is pending from the European Court of Justice.
Late last year the Commission discovered that one of these projects, the Kiltale Group Water Scheme, would supply the new Food and Veterinary office.
"The Irish government is basically arguing that as these schemes are private arrangements, the people who drink the water are not consumers and so do not come under the scope of the law," said one official. "We would say that our staff and their children in the crèche constitute consumers."
But while Commission officials in the environment directorate-general are insisting on the importance of the health clampdown, fonctionnaires in the administration department are playing down the threat posed to its own staff by the water.
They insist the move to new premises will proceed once building work is complete and will not depend on any ruling on the legality of Ireland's water provisions.
Drinking water being supplied to a new European food safety headquarters in Ireland is polluted with animal waste, according to tests.
|Environment, Politics and International Relations
|Countries / Regions