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Tuesday 23 January 2018

Bathing areas safer as water quality improves

Paul Melia

GOOD news for swimmers: Ireland's water quality has never been better.

A major report on our bathing waters shows 90pc of beaches and lakes are clean and safe to swim in -- a 4pc increase on previous years.

But an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report to be published today reveals that nine popular bathing spots have failed to make the grade, with three in north Dublin.

It says of "particular concern" are Clifden in Co Galway, which has failed to achieve minimum standards of cleanliness in the past five years, and Balbriggan front strand in Fingal, which achieved sufficient water quality status only once in the last seven years.

Fingal is home to three of the nine beaches which failed to achieve the standards: Balbriggan Front Strand, Skerries South Beach and Sutton Burrow Beach.

Fingal County Council last night said the beaches failed because of heavy rainfall causing overflow at pumping stations, overflow from septic tanks and from onsite treatment plants. Upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities would address these problems, but they were dependent on funding and approval from the Department of Environment, the council said.

The report says 122 of 131 areas exceeded minimum guidelines for cleanliness. But it also reveals that just seven local authorities achieved good water status in all their bathing areas. These are Donegal, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Kerry, Louth and Meath County Councils, and Dublin and Galway City Councils.

"The increase of 4pc in the number of bathing waters complying with the EU guide values is welcome," said Micheal O'Cinneide from the EPA.

"Local authorities need to take action to ensure bathing waters failing to comply with the EU minimum standards are improved."

The report analysed water samples from 131 bathing areas, of which 122 were seawater and nine freshwater, taken over the 2009 bathing season.

They were assessed against minimum EU standards and stricter guide values which impose a higher level of cleanliness. Local authorities are obliged to ensure that public notices are placed at bathing areas which fail to meet the minimum standards.

Irish Independent

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