Safety of water from private boreholes and role of the States Official Analyst (FOI)
Safety of water from private boreholes and role of the States Official Analyst (FOI)Produced by the Freedom of Information office
Authored by States of Jersey and published on 30 July 2015.
Prepared internally, no external costs.
What percentage of private water borehole tests conducted by the States Official Analyst show evidence that drinking water from boreholes in Jersey is safe?
Is there a list or description of the public duties of the States Official Analyst and could this be made available to the public e.g. on a website. The only information we could find was about private householders paying for water to be tested.
In England, local councils are responsible for the monitoring / safety of private water supplies in the interests of public health. Why doesn't the States provide this service to local island residents?
Your request has been split into questions: A., B. and C.
The first two of these (A. and B.) have not been handled under the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 because the department which holds and has supplied the information you requested is not a scheduled authority under that legislation. The information has nevertheless been provided by the States Official Analyst in the spirit of the Freedom of Information legislation.
The third question (C.) has been answered under the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 as it is a question relating to public health and the authority that can provide the response to you is a scheduled public authority under that legislation.
The Official Analyst’s Department analyses well and borehole samples submitted by members of the public. Drinking water is considered ‘safe’ if microbiological analysis shows no evidence of coliform bacteria. Chemical analysis may show results that breach EU limits but are not necessarily ‘unsafe’. For example high iron or copper levels may cause staining but would not be considered to make the water ‘unsafe’.
The results are not routinely collated as they are confidential to the submitter. Of the private well and borehole water samples analysed in the first six months of 2015, 57% were considered ‘safe’ as no coliform bacteria were detected. It should be noted that this is not a representative sample of wells and boreholes on the island as analysis requests are often triggered by illness or concerns about the supply. It will also include follow-up samples where supplies have previously been found to be contaminated. Many of these water supplies will subsequently be treated to make them safe for drinking.
The Official Analyst is required to analyse food samples and fertiliser and feeding stuffs samples on the request of a member of the public under the Food Safety (Jersey) Law 1966 and the Fertilizers and Feeding Stuffs (Jersey) Law 1950, respectively. In practice, food complaint samples are submitted through the Environmental Health Department. The Official Analyst also has duties under the Gas Company (Jersey) Law 1989, The Medicines (Jersey) Law 1995, Water (Jersey) Law 1972, Road Traffic (Jersey) Law 1956 and various other pieces of legislation.
The Official Analyst’s Department has also customarily offered analysis of water samples for suitability for drinking, building materials for the presence of asbestos, soil for the presence of contaminants and other services depending upon analytical capability and capacity.
Department web pages were removed during a government website redesign some years ago as they did not fit within the proposed format. The possibility of reinstating them will be investigated.
There is no legislation in Jersey applicable to quality of private water supplies, and thus no standards against which to monitor.