‘Are ye still using your own well?” At least once a year my sister Rose asks us this question when she visits. As I nod my head in acquiescence, she inevitability shakes hers in disbelief.
Dr Rose FitzGerald is a Specialist in Public Health Medicine with the Health Service Executive (HSE) and she and her colleagues are the ones who deal at a management level with outbreaks of infection such as those which can occur from drinking contaminated well water.
Outside of this glitch in our character Rose would know us as not otherwise unreasonable people but so frustrated has she become by this behaviour of ours and others in drinking untreated well water than she has come up with the following analogy.
“Drinking your own water while giving system water to the cattle is akin to a dairy farmer drinking milk from his bulk tank while feeding pasteurised milk to his calves.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 720,000 people in Ireland, 17pc of the population, concentrated in rural areas, get their water from private wells. But those who contract VTEC infections are more than twice as likely to have drank well water than the population as a whole. Moreover, as Rose points out, investigations regularly find the exact same organism in the well as in the humans who have been sick.