Just two weeks after Ballybunion North retained its Blue Flag status, the recent heavy rain is creating concern among some locals who say Kerry County Council (KCC) should prioritise work to minimise flood damage.
KCC placed a bathing prohibition notice on Ballybunion North until water quality improves. It’s hoped that tests will return to normal levels in time for this weekend.
KCC also placed ‘prior warnings’ for designated bathing beaches at Ballybunion South, Ballyheigue, Banna, Fenit, Maharabeg, Ventry, Inch, Kells, Cuas Crom, White Strand, Ballinskelligs, Derrynane and Inny Strand.
However, locals in Ballybunion believe the source of flooding is due to a combination of factors, chief among them being a stream that empties into Ballybunion North.
Due to overflow from the River Feale’s three tributaries - the Gayle, the Brick, and the Smearlagh - the stream enters the beach at this point.
It’s thought the stream, when under pressure from flooding, can act as a runoff point for sewage and slurry from surrounding lands.
Ballybunion Community Forum Chairman Donal Liston said this stream is fed from an ‘unusual confluence of rivers’.
“We thought it was a blip the first time we lost the Blue Flag. That will have to be looked at if we are to protect it. We can’t go on like this and the negative publicity it causes. The season is short enough,” said Donal.
“If we get another bad test, our Blue Flag will be under threat again. The tests need to be done over an average of times as 99 percent of the time the water here is crystal clear.
“We are concerned, and there isn’t an awful lot we can do about it. If the council can do something, they should try pinpoint the problem for us,” Donal added.
Local Sinn Féin Cllr Robert Beasely said the stream at Ballybunion North has been an issue for several years.
“I was onto the council and they say they are rectifying it. But we will need a long-term solution to this,” he said.
Cllr Beasely said flood water overwhelmed the local sewerage system, which was discharged at points near the Castle Green site.
“It’s a complicated situation. Even when they put in the new toilets at the top of Castle Green, there’s still a portion of the old [sewerage] system operating.
“We’ve been led to believe this is now redundant, but I don’t believe that it is,” he added.
In a reply from Kerry County Council (KCC) in relation to the closure of Ballybunion North, it said due to the extremely heavy rain last weekend it caused an overflow from the treatment plant in Ballybunion.
The incident has be reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
KCC revealed that an extensive investigation of the sewer network in Ballybunion was undertaken in the past year, as well as visiting landowners in the catchment area.
As part of the work, it involved the restoration of the water quality in the bay and the restoration of the Blue Flag.
KCC say the matter of the old sewer system in Ballybunion was also raised at the time. This was checked out and there is no issue with the ‘old pipe’ which actually is located at the South Beach.
As outlined, extensive catchment management work was undertaken to determine the issue which may be affecting water quality including any water course.
This work will continue to ensure that the water quality remains within the parameter required for a Blue Flag beach.
Further tests to the water quality were taken on Monday. If clear, it’s hoped that the beach may reopen in time for the weekend.