Quality of Ireland’s bathing water below EU average, environment agency finds

Ireland has third highest share of ‘poor’ waters in EU

Merrion Strand in Dublin is the first Irish beach to shut permanently after failing EPA standards for the fifth successive year. Photograph: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Merrion Strand in Dublin is the first Irish beach to shut permanently after failing EPA standards for the fifth successive year. Photograph: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

 

Bathing water quality in Europe has improved markedly in recent years though Ireland is in the bottom quarter in bathing sites that have an excellent status, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

In its annual evaluation of bathing waters at coastal and inland locations, it confirms 72.8 per cent of Irish swimming sites monitored in 2019 – 22nd place – met the EU’s highest and most stringent “excellent” quality standard for waters mostly free from pollutants. The EU average was 84.8 per cent.

In its evaluation for the European Commission, the EEA says Ireland had the third highest share of bathing waters classified as “poor” in the EU (five bathing waters, or 3.4 per cent). On average, only 1.3 per of European sites were classified as poor.

As Merrion strand on Dublin Bay failed to meet minimum EU standards for the fifth year in a row, swimming was permanently banned there after the EPA, which compiles the Irish figures, published its evaluation of bathing locations in late May.

In total 147 sites (138 coastal and nine inland bathing sites) were examined in Ireland of which 107 were classified as excellent, 24 as good quality (16.3 per cent), 9 as sufficient (6.1 per cent). It was not possible to classify the two remaining sites.

Almost all of the 22,295 bathing water sites monitored last year across Europe met the minimum quality requirements.

On the threat of Covid-19 at bathing locations, the EEA said there is an on the public and on local and national authorities to provide information on risk and to ensure safety measures are in place. It may require greater regulation of locations and in some cases restricting access to sites this year, it adds.

The EEA attributes improvement in EU bathing locations to large investments in urban waste water treatment plants and networks that have led to a drastic reduction in pollutants released through untreated or partially-treated waste waters. “Thanks to these continuous efforts, bathing is today feasible in urbanised and formerly heavily-polluted surface waters,” it adds.