Polluted top beaches fail tests for water quality
Bathing water at seven popular swimming spots has failed to meet minimum standards, despite problems being flagged in some areas more than a decade ago.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that while overall our bathing waters are of a very high standard, pollution is causing problems at six coastal and one inland location.
The areas of concern are Youghal (Front Strand) in Cork, Ardmore in Waterford, Duncannon in Wexford, Rush (South Beach) in Dublin, Ballyloughane in Galway and Lilliput (Lough Ennell) in Westmeath, which has repeatedly failed to meet the standards since 2007.
The seventh location, Clifden in Co Galway, has failed to meet the minimum requirements since 2004, and has been the subject of legal action by the environmental watchdog.
But Peter Webster, a co-author of ‘Bathing Water Quality in Ireland’, said that although the water quality at these locations failed to meet the standards, it did not mean they were unsafe to swim in.
This was because the data was based on four years of sampling, and that a few high values over this period could result in the water being classed as ‘poor’ quality.
“The water quality classification is historic, it says what the average quality is over the last four years,” he said. “It does not mean it’s unsafe to swim. The local authority is required to erect signage to state the water quality classification. We would advise people to check the water quality. All of these waters will still be monitored during 2015, and the current water quality may well be fine.”
The report finds 128 of 136 identified bathing spots meet the minimum ‘sufficient’ standard. Of these, 118 are classed as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
Last year, 48 pollution incidents were recorded, of which 27 related to sewage, four from discharges from wastewater treatment plants and eight from agricultural sources.
Some 15 of the 136 bathing areas were affected by restrictions due to poor quality, which were in place for a total of 74 days.
The report says that improvements are planned or under way in most areas, directed by local authorities and Irish Water, but it could be a number of years before they are in place. They include new treatment plants, upgrades of the sewer networks and connections to new treatment facilities.
Councils will also begin erecting signage indicating the water quality at particular locations, which will include warnings of potential problems due to high levels of rain fall.
The report also says that 58 other bathing spots that fall outside the EU classification system are also monitored. Of these, four are of ‘poor’ status – Cadogans Strand in Cork and Ballyvooney, Stradbally and Woodstown, all in Waterford.