Six beaches unfit for swimming - but three-quarters rated excellent
Six beaches have failed to meet minimum mandatory health standards for swimming, a new report has revealed.
Most beaches in Ireland have "excellent" water quality for swimming, but the Environmental Protection Agency report lists six places that have been classified as "poor", where local councils must advise the public not to swim at those locations.
Brook Beach in Portrane, Co Dublin, and Clifden and Tra na bhForbacha beaches in Co Galway were detected in 2016 as having water quality which has deteriorated to below acceptable levels for swimming.
They join three other beaches than have remained on a "poor" quality list since the previous year - Merrion Strand in Dublin Bay, Loughshinny in north Co Dublin, and Ballyloughane in Co Galway.
Some 93pc of bathing waters around Ireland met minimum EU health standards for swimming.
Almost three-quarters of all identified bathing waters (102 of 140) were classed as "excellent" - one more than 2015. A further 18 were classed as "good", which was five more than in 2015.
The assessment of water quality for 2016 was undertaken using data covering the 2013-2016 bathing seasons.
Cllr Paul Mulville, an independent member of Fingal County Council whose home is beside the beach in Portrane, said: "We're very disappointed, because Portrane is a popular place for visitors in the summer.
"Portrane has two main caravan parks and a number of smaller caravan sites. We had a blue flag at the beach for years. But the regulations have got tougher now. We want our blue flag back."
He said the council has a notice advising people not to swim at the beach, but the quality is not so bad that it has issued an outright swimming ban.
"The council has a plan to improve the water quality, and we will be looking at a number of factors to make the improvements," he said.
Speaking about the nationwide beach study, Dr Matt Crowe, director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Evidence and Assessment, said: "All bathers are entitled to feel that they and their loved ones are safe from harm from the water they swim in when they spend a day at the beach.
"More needs to be done to provide a greater level of protection for bathers at beaches and other bathing areas vulnerable to pollution.
"It is simply unacceptable to have popular bathing areas classified as being of poor quality."
Bathing waters are evaluated using a four-year assessment period. Local councils, in conjunction with Irish Water, have plans in place to tackle the main pollution risks at the six beaches that failed the tests.
Current information about bathing water quality is available from June to September on the national bathing water website, splash.epa.ie.
A Twitter notification service, @EPABathingWater, is also available to provide incident alerts and information of interest to bathers.