Wednesday 21 August 2019

100th Liffey Swim to go ahead despite bacteria fears (but avoid swallowing water as much as possible, suggests HSE)

Competitors in the Liffey Swim could be at risk due to high levels of bacteria in the water
Competitors in the Liffey Swim could be at risk due to high levels of bacteria in the water
Competitors in the 99th annual Liffey Swim through Dublin (Aoife Moore/PA)
Paul O'Flynn of Half Moon celebrates winning the 99th Dublin City Liffey Swim in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

The 100th Liffey Swim will go ahead tomorrow, despite the river’s water quality being described as “exceptionally poor”.

Earlier this week, heavy rainfall in Dublin city caused sewer debris to seep into Liffey, prompting Dublin City Council (DCC) to test the water quality in the run up to the landmark event. 

The council said Irish Water was also made aware of an overflow or discharge of sewage from the Irish Water sewer network.

It said the discharge may have been active for some days before it was rectified, but added that the utility company had told them that the matter had been resolved.

“The results are exceptionally poor, and significantly exceed the maximum permitted levels for designated bathing waters,” a council spokesperson said.

“Due to the fact that the annual Liffey Swim is scheduled to take place [tomorrow], DCC has notified the HSE and the event organisers of these sample results.

“Unfortunately, it is not possible to get any more up-to-date samples taken and tested in advance of the event. The river Liffey is not a designated bathing water location.”

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Paul O'Flynn of Half Moon celebrates winning the 99th Dublin City Liffey Swim in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

The spokesperson added that the organisers of the event were responsible for whether or not the annual swim goes ahead. 

“While any decision in relation to this event is a matter for the organisers, it is noted that a number of tidal cycles will have taken place prior to the Liffey Swim and that, as is done every year, the ESB will increase flows in the Liffey prior to the event to further dilute any residual contaminants. 

“It would, therefore, be hoped that the river water quality will have improved significantly by the time of the event but, unfortunately, no guarantees can be given in this regard.

“Given the long history of this event, Dublin City Council regrets that the water quality in the Liffey would appear to have been badly impacted by this unforeseeable event and it looks forward to working with Irish Water and all other agencies to achieve improved water quality in all our water courses in the future,” the statement read. 

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Competitors in the 99th annual Liffey Swim through Dublin (Aoife Moore/PA)

A spokesperson for Irish Water told Independent.ie that a Fingal County Council crew were able to stop the overflow on Friday morning. 

“The overflow was by a blocked sewer. Following exceptional rainfall on Tuesday evening, a storm water overflow on the Liffey was activated and this may have contributed to this subsequent blockage. 

“A storm water overflow is a normal measure to prevent the sewer network backing up and causing flooding.”

The HSE offered a list of precautions swimmers should take to reduce the risk of contracting illness while taking part in the Liffey race. 

Liffey swim safety precautions

Avoid swimming or other water activities in the River Liffey if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system.

Avoid swallowing or splashing water as much as possible.

Avoid swimming or other water activities with an open cut or wound – if you have one, make sure it is covered appropriately.

Wash your hands before handling food.

Shower after swimming.

The HSE also advised swimmers if they fall ill after swimming in the River Liffey to seek medical advice.

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