Bathing remains restricted as tests of E.coli levels continue

Fri, Aug 24, 2012, 01:00

THE QUALITY of water at a Galway city beach is due to be reviewed today following its closure earlier this week due to elevated E.coli levels.

The levels were detected during routine testing at Grattan beach, within half a mile of the Mutton Island sewage treatment plant, and close to the Salthill venue for the international Ironman contest on September 2nd.

It was the latest in a series of beaches where EU standards on bathing water quality were breached over the past week. Elevated E.coli levels indicate faecal contamination.

In Cork, test results have shown a marked improvement in water quality at seven beaches that have had bathing restrictions imposed since last Friday. The restrictions remain in place pending talks with the Health Service Executive.

Levels of E.coli have “significantly decreased”, with water quality at all seven beaches deemed safe within mandatory EU limits.

Bathing water quality at Garryvoe and Garrettstown have been upgraded to “good”, while results of tests conducted at Youghal (front strand), Claycastle, Redbarn, Oysterhaven and Coolmaine on Monday revealed “sufficient” water quality.

Cork County Council says it is awaiting the outcome of discussions with the HSE in relation to swimming notices warning bathers to stay out of the water.

Mayor of Co Cork Cllr Barbara Murray was one of a group of water lovers who took the plunge at Front Strand in the seaside town of Youghal yesterday.

“It was not as cold as I thought it would be,” said Cllr Murray. “I went with a few regular swimmers who swim every day so it was great,” she said.

She could not understand why the ban could not be lifted yesterday. “We’ve got the good result and we want the ban lifted,” she said. “Every day matters. It’s the difference maybe between someone deciding to come to the beach here at the weekend or to go somewhere else.”

Public notices were erected asking bathers not to swim at the affected beaches last weekend. The signs are expected to be removed following discussions between the HSE and the local authority.

HSE West said further samples were being taken yesterday to determine bathing water quality in the Galway city area in conjunction with the local city council.

Results, which should be available today, would then be reviewed, HSE West said. Two consecutive samples showing acceptable bacterial counts must be recorded before the water quality can be deemed safe for bathing.

Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E.coli, is a group of rod-shaped bacteria found in the lower intestinal tract of warm-blooded organisms. They form a small part of the bacterial mix in the intestine but colonise space that might otherwise be occupied by less benign bacteria. While safe in the intestine, they readily cause food poisoning if spread to fresh foods by failure to wash hands after using the toilet. Cooking readily kills them.

E.coli can survive for a time outside the intestine, and as a result provides a very valuable service as a marker when assessing environmental quality. If E.coli is found in water supplies or sea water it is a clear sign of either human or animal faecal matter contamination. If E.coli is present, other harmful faecal organisms may also be present.