Sunday 19 November 2017

Weekend harbour bathing restricted due to oil spill

Wicklow harbour was closed to all swimming activities due to an oil slick on the surface of the water
Wicklow harbour was closed to all swimming activities due to an oil slick on the surface of the water

Myles Buchanan

A bathing prohibition notice had to be put in place at Wicklow Harbour for over 24 hours after high levels of hydrocarbons were found in the water, believed to have been caused by an oil spill.

Last Friday Wicklow Water Safety Swim Week had to be relocated from the harbour to the Murrough because of the amount of oil in the water.

The 20th Healy O'Kane Open Sea Race organised by Wicklow Swimming Club for Friday evening also had to be moved to the Murrough.

'It's the first time in 40 years we have ever had to move away from the harbour but you could see the oil straight away,' said Joan Morton of Wicklow Water Safety.

'Some of us went down for an early morning swim and the oil was very noticeable. Other swimmers also tipped us off to let us know there was a big problem with oil down in the harbour. For health and safety reasons, we had no other option but to relocate the children down to the Murrough.'

The prohibition notice was announced at lunchtime on Friday, with Wicklow County Council also liaising with the EPA. High levels of hydrocarbons meant the harbour wasn't safe for swimming.

It is thought that the spillage that caused the pollution occurred outside of Wicklow Harbour but the prohibition notice remained in place until 6 p.m. on Saturday once the changing tides had washed the spillage away.

Initially, there were also fears that the Harbourman Triathlon due to take place on Sunday may also have to be moved elsewhere but the prohibition notice was lifted in time to accommodate the event.

Peter O'Reilly from Wicklow Swimming Club said the incident was 'disappointing'.

'I know these things can happen and it is a working harbour but it was very disappointing to have to move the open swim race to the Murrough. It was a big event and there was a lot of planning involved.

'People come from all over Leinster and Ireland to take part in the open sea swims. We had over 200 people visiting Wicklow, along with their families and friends, and it is also a chance for us to show off how good the town is,' he said.

The last time Wicklow Harbour was closed to swimmers was in September 2015 after unusually high levels of bacteria were found in the water.

Wicklow People

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