ALMOST half of the bathing water samples taken from Ballybunion North Beach by Kerry County Council this summer were found to exceed allowable levels of E.coli.
And, of the beaches in Kerry tested by council between June and September, the published results for 17 beaches show that all but four recorded excess levels of the coliform bacteria at one time or another. Maherabeg, Rossbeigh, Castlegregory and Inch were the only beaches not to have exceeded mandatory levels so far in 2012.
Of 14 samples taken at Ballybunion North since June 1, six returned higher than mandatory levels of E.coli. Results from other beaches include Inny, Waterville, where five out of 13 samples exceeded mandatory levels, Ballinskelligs (5/14), Ventry (4/5), White Strand, Cahersiveen (4/14), Derrynane ( 1/ 10), Ballybunion South (3/14), Fenit (2/14), Ballyheigue (1/14), Kells (2/11), Derrymore (2/4), Derrynane ( 1/ 10), Banna (1/9), and Beal Ban (1/3).
There were significantly elevated micro-biolgical results found on July 2 in Inny Strand, Waterville, Derrynane and at White Strand, Cahersiveen. These results, according to the county council, were the result of extreme rainfall events which occurred in South Kerry area in period June 29 to July 2. Results of subsequent samples taken on July 5 denoted a return to good or excellent conditions
At this week's monthly meeting of Kerry County Council, the cause of the excessive levels of E.coli was laid firmly at the door of this year's unprecedented levels of rainfall and subsequent surface runoff.
In response to a query from Cllr Johnny Healy-Rae regarding the situation in Kerry following the closure last month of seven beaches in neighbouring Cork, council spokesperson Ger O'Brien said bathing was prohibited at Kerry beaches where levels of E.coli were unacceptably high.
"During the 2012 bathing season, there have been extremely high levels of rainfall throughout the county. As a result, surface water runoff, which is one of the major factors affecting coliform levels in the waters at our beaches has been greatly increased," he said.
"As expected in such conditions, coliform levels at a number of our bathing waters are significantly higher this year than in previous years. In a small number of instances, the mandatory levels for E.coli have been exceeded. This has led to the issuing of advisory notices to bathers on a number of occasions throughout the season and, in a small number of instances, the erection of a red flag on the beach advising against bathing," Mr O'Brien added.