Six beaches in Dublin and Galway fail bathing water test

Report finds 73% of main bathing waters in coastal areas and inland of ‘excellent’ quality

The beach near Dooagh village on Achill Island was washed away in 1984 but over the past few weeks has returned, to the joy of local people and holidaymakers. Video: Sean Molloy

 

More needs to be done to provide greater protection to bathers at Irish beaches and in other waters vulnerable to pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.

In its 2016 Report on Bathing Water Quality, the EPA said 73 per cent of Ireland’s main bathing waters in coastal areas and inland are of “excellent” quality.

The report says 130 out of 140 identified waters met EU standards last year but six – all of which were in Dublin and Galway – failed to meet the minimum required standard and were classified as being of “poor” quality.

Dr Matt Crowe of the EPA said this was “simply unacceptable” as all bathers should be entitled to feel they are “safe from harm from the water they swim in when they spend a day at the beach”.

“More needs to be done to provide a greater level of protection for bathers at beaches and other bathing areas vulnerable to pollution,” he added.

The six bathing waters that failed to meet the minimum required standard were: Ballyloughane, Clifden and Trá na bhForbacha in Galway; and Merrion Strand, Loughshinny and Portrane in Dublin. The report says these waters are all vulnerable to pollution events.

The relevant local authorities, along with Irish Water, have plans in place to tackle the main pollution risks at these beaches with a view to improving them to at least “sufficient” quality, it notes.

Duncannon in Co Wexford; Youghal Front Strand in Co Cork and Rush South Beach in Co Dublin showed improved performance compared to 2015, and were classified as of “sufficient” standard.

A total of 18 bathing locations (12.9 per cent) were classified as “good” while a total of 10 (7.1 per cent) were classified as “sufficient” but remain at risk of pollution events. Ardmore in Co Waterford was not classified pending a full assessment of the performance of a new wastewater treatment plant in the vicinity.

Challenges

“While Ireland has some of the best quality and most scenic waters in northern Europe, there are many challenges to maintaining this situation,” the EPA report said. “In particular the impacts of pollution from urban run-off, wastewater discharges and agricultural sources – especially after heavy rain – remain a potential and continuing threat.”

The 140 identified bathing waters are coastal or inland waters widely used by the public for bathing which are monitored, managed and assessed under the requirements of the 2008 Bathing Water Quality Regulations.

Ireland has no shortage of beaches around our coast with excellent water quality, said EPA senior scientific officer Peter Webster. In addition to the 140 EU identified bathing waters assessed, the EPA also includes details of 80 other waters where bathing occurs which are monitored by local authorities.

“While these do not come under the legal framework of the bathing water regulations it is important to let the public know about their water quality and we would like to see many of them included in the national monitoring programme in the future,” Mr Webster said.

Of these “other monitored waters”, four were classified “poor”; Stradbally and Ballyvooney in Co Waterford, the North Bull Wall in Dublin and Lough Muckno in Co Monaghan.

Throughout the swimming season from June to mid-September, current water quality information and details of any incidents affecting bathing waters will be displayed on the national bathing water website, splash.epa.ie and on the @EPABathingWater Twitter account.