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New rules mean some beaches will lose blue flags

SOME Irish beaches will be stripped of their coveted blue flags this summer due to new higher water-quality standards.

Judges across Europe had based water quality on an EU directive dating from 1976, but a recently updated directive sets far higher standards.

An Taisce, the heritage body that administers the blue flag scheme, said yesterday it expected some beaches to lose the distinction when the awards for 2013 are announced in May.

The same higher standards will apply to all other European countries.

Ireland was awarded a record 87 blue flags last year.

Excellence

The blue flag is an international recognition of excellence that informs people of the environmental quality and sustainability of beaches and marinas.

Beaches awarded a blue flag must comply with 32 criteria, including environmental education, information provision, management of the environment, safety, and water quality.

An Taisce's blue flag coastal programmes manager Annabel FitzGerald said: "It will be more challenging now, but although we face some loss of blue flags, we still expect to be performing well when compared with other countries."

Beaches must now meet an "excellent" standard of water quality in order to be considered for a blue flag. Those that reach only "good" standard will not be now considered.

Irish Independent