Thirteen blue flags lost after tougher tests on water quality
THIRTEEN top Irish beaches have lost their coveted Blue Flag status because of new tougher water quality standards.
Stricter new EU bathing standards introduced this year led to the huge wave of losses.
Ireland only received 74 blue flags – a drop of 13 on last year's total.
A further 12 beaches also lost Green Coast awards because of the higher standards.
Stripped of blue flags are Skerries South Beach, Donabate, the Brook Beach Portrane, the Velvet Strand Portmarnock (all Co Dublin), Ballybunion North beach, Co Kerry, White Strand Miltown Malbay and Lahinch, Co Clare, and Ceibh an Spideal in Galway.
Others who lost their 2012 blue flags as they did not even apply this year are Dollymount, Dublin, Morriscastle, Co Wexford, Bunmahon in Co Waterford, Redbarn, Garryvoe, Garretstown and Barleycove, Co Cork, and Old Head in Co Mayo.
Mullaghmore in Co Sligo could not be awarded the flag as there are ongoing issues with livestock roaming on the main beach area, "creating an unsafe environment for beach users".
Three new blue flags were awarded to Killiney and Seapoint in Dublin and the Royal Cork Yacht Club marina in Cork.
Despite massive investment in a sewage treatment facility at Ringsend, Dublin received just two blue flags in total.
Donegal got 13, the biggest number awarded to any county this year.
The beaches which lost Green Coast Awards as well, because they failed to comply with the stricter new bathing water criteria, were: Skerries South Beach, the Brook Beach Portrane, Balcarrick, the Velvet Strand Portmarnock, all in Co Dublin, Mornington, Co Meath, Silverstrand, Co Mayo, and Ladies Bay, Co Donegal.
Arklow South beach in Wicklow lost its award due to non-compliance based on insufficient water sample numbers.
Applications were not received this year from last year's Green Coast award holders at Dollymount and Malahide, Dublin, and Garryvoe and Fountainstown in Cork.
Newtown Cove, Co Waterford, and Cross beach, Louisburgh, Co Mayo, regained their Green Coast awards.
The 70 beaches and four marinas that received flags today met a specific set of criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education and beach management.
In previous years, the Blue Flag water quality criteria was based on the 1976 EU Bathing Water Directive.
From this year they are based on the 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive which is in line with the latest scientific information and current best practice.
The EU, influenced by the World Health Organisation guidelines, used higher standards to identify the potential risk of disease to bathers and to protect public health.
As a result, beaches must meet the "Excellent" standard of water quality in order to be considered for the Blue Flag Award.
An Taisce, which organises the Irish awards, said the new standard "gives stronger focus to the protection of public health."
An Taisce also launched the new Blue Flag Ireland website which can be found at www.blueflagireland.org
This website is designed as a beach user resource providing information on each individual blue flag beaches and marinas.
An Taisce director Patricia Oliver: "Blue Flag and Green Coast awards at a beach or marina are a sign of quality.
"These awards are not easily achieved and represent to the public, locations which have been rigorously assessed."