Clifden beach in Galway does not meet basic water quality standards. MICHAEL McLAUGHLIN
The sea off one of the country's beaches has been unsafe to swim in for the past six years because of a lack of a sewage treatment plant.
Clifden beach in Co Galway was yesterday named and shamed as one of four popular bathing spots that fails to meet basic water quality standards, joining Sutton Burrow beach in Dublin, Lilliput at Lough Ennell in Westmeath, and Ballyallia in Ennis, Co Clare.
And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that another nine bathing areas failed to meet higher standards for clean and safe water.
The 'Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland 2010' report published today says that while overall water quality is improving, investment in wastewater treatment plants was needed.
"There has been an overall improvement in 2010," director general Dr Mary Kelly said. "However, stricter standards will be introduced under legislation, which means greater efforts will be needed to ensure our bathing waters are clean and fit for people to swim in."
Local authorities tested seven samples of water from 131 bathing areas last year, 122 of which were beaches and the remainder lakes. Samples were tested for animal waste, mineral oils, bacteria and chemicals.
The report found:
In June, the country's Blue Flag beaches will be announced. These awards are given to beaches that meet the higher water quality standard, have an adequate number of litter bins, are cleaned daily, have lifeguards and are car-free.
The EPA noted its concern about two sites in particular; Lilliput at Lough Ennel in Westmeath, which has been classified as poor for three years, and Clifden in Connemara.
The Clifden Chamber of Commerce said it hoped construction on a new plant would begin later this year.
"The good news is that there's planning permission in place," chamber president Brian Hughes said. "We've been nagging and nagging for years."
Galway County Council has been planning the Clifden plant since 2004, and is waiting for approval from the department. The plant will cost €700,000.
The department said it would process the application "as quickly as possible".