TULLA’s John Leamy is leading the team of specialised scientists at Irish Water with an in-depth knowledge into the chemical and physical processes involved in treating water.

Now based in Kilcormac, Co Offaly with his wife Sharon and three children Fiadhna (12), Rían (10) and Síomha (8) where he has been for most of his working life, John’s job is to ensure that the water that flows from taps in the Midlands, and across the country is clean and safe to drink.

Science is not John’s only passion. He has played the bagpipes competitively in both solo and in pipe band competitions and is an avid Clare hurling supporter and hopes one day that Limerick’s crown is toppled by the Banner County.

Speaking about his role at Irish Water, John said, “Every year Irish Water conducts approximately. 180,000 tests from 9,000 samples across 730 supplies. This generates a lot of data, which must be analysed, processed, and reported. This data provides valuable information in terms of how water treatment plants are performing in Ireland in order to take action when necessary to ensure water supply adheres to the highest standards”.

He explained, “This huge task is then subsequently coordinated in the form of an annual sampling plan – which is rolled out to our local authority partners to implement. The role of science in ensuring clean and safe drinking water to the people in the Midlands and across Ireland can never be underestimated nor taken for granted.”

John has had a varied career to date across a wide range of industries and organisations, however all positions have been rooted in scientific, technical, and engineering disciplines. When he joined the Irish Water in 2013, he was responsible for delivering Irish Water’s first ever Chemicals Framework and oversaw the migration of all Local Authority electricity accounts to Irish Water. Since 2014 drinking water compliance is what drives John’s passion for finding scientific solutions to protecting Ireland’s water supply.

His role involves regular engagement with numerous local and national stakeholders. “The primary purpose of the Drinking Water Compliance team is to ensure Irish Water complies with the law – which in terms of drinking water quality is the Drinking Water Regulations. Irish Water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). and it is their job to supervise Irish Water and assess how we comply with these regulations”.

A career in science is one he would strongly encourage to students in his native county. “Some of the most significant advances made by humanity have been rooted in science. The technology we all take for granted today started off as an observation that turned into an experiment, that turned into findings, that turned into an application for humankind”.

For Leamy, his love in science began at a very young age. In secondary school he was inspired by two Science teachers, Mary Lenihan – wife of the famous Seanchaí Eddie Lenihan, who taught John Physics and Chemistry, and Sister John Bosco Griffin who provided the impetus for John to pursue a journey of scientific discovery in the areas of Biology and Biochemistry, and he has never looked back.

John graduated in 1999 from NUI Galway with an honours degree in Biochemistry, and in 2000 he received a Masters’ Degree in Biotechnology. He has had varied career to date across a wide range of industries and organisations, however all positions have been rooted in scientific, technical, and engineering disciplines.

His first position was as a research assistant in the National Diagnostics Centre, NUI Galway, working in DNA Diagnostics. One of the technologies he used extensively in that role was Polymerase Chain Reaction or PCR, a phrase that has now become ingrained in the national psyche during pandemic times. “Back then if you weren’t working in that area, you might never have ever heard of PCR. However, the Covid 19 pandemic has introduced it as a familiar term to many in Ireland if not the world. I smile wryly to myself when I hear my elderly relatives talk about the PCR test and how it is much more accurate than a rapid antigen test.”

With a myriad of scientific experience John worked as a Biochemist in the R&D Department at Olympus Diagnostica and was responsible for developing new formulations of diagnostic reagents used in clinical biochemistry labs. He admits that he was very fortunate to have had an excellent mentor from Germany, from whom he was encouraged as he embraced the role of Senior Biochemist in the R&D lab.

Later in his career John joined the Water Services section of Offaly County Council. The role had a county wide scope, and he was fortunate to have a line manager that saw his potential and allowed him to run his own projects. While there, John worked extensively in process optimisation across both drinking water and wastewater and was eventually promoted to Energy Officer for the county.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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