Dublin bathing: ‘Even when you tell them the water is not safe...they’ll get in anyway’

Prohibition notices remain in place due to sewage overflow as weather warms up

 Lifeguards Niall Finnegan and Aisling Carroll at Dollymount Strand. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Lifeguards Niall Finnegan and Aisling Carroll at Dollymount Strand. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

The sun was shining and temperatures were climbing on Wednesday but Dollymount Strand in Dublin was virtually empty as the sea remained off limits to swimmers.

A prohibition order put in place by Dublin City Council - due to millions of litres of sewage pouring into the bay after heavy rain caused an overflow of wastewater at the Ringsend water treatment plant - was still in place with similar notices affecting Seapoint, Sandycove and the Forty Foot.

The only people ready to get into the water off Dollymount were lifeguards Aisling Carroll and Niall Finnegan.

“It has been pretty quiet although there have been some people swimming,” Carroll said. “Even when you tell them the water is not safe, they don’t really care and they’ll get in anyway.

Finnegan added: “When we started this morning there were a few people here but the closure has been all over the news and all the regulars members know what’ s been going on.”

Ben Warren and Teresa Sweeney consider themselves regular swimmers and they were walking the pier with their young children.

(Left to right) Ben Warren with Thomas, Eva and Theresa Sweeney at Dollymount Strand. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.
(Left to right) Ben Warren with Thomas, Eva and Theresa Sweeney at Dollymount Strand. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

“It happens all the time here,” Warren said. “Everyone is paying attention now because it’s going to be hot this weekend but spillages like this are common. We swim here regularly but I wouldn’t be getting in the water now, not with the warnings in place.”

Sweeney was more tempted to go or a swim.

“I love sea swimming and go pretty often,” she said. “I might go to this weekend even if the ban is still in place but I won’t be putting my head under the water and I’ll think twice if I have a cut anywhere. I definitely won’t let my kids go in.”

Boat trip

Her children, Thomas and Eva, are in the sea scouts and were due to take a boat out with their troop this week. It was cancelled because of the pollution.

“Dollymount is one of the joys of living in Dublin,” Carroll said. “Living by the sea is a great thing but it is being ruined by the sewage.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan echoed their concerns and said it was a “sad reflection of the way we treat our natural environment” that 30 million litres of sewage could be pumped into Dublin Bay “stopping people enjoying the amenities because they had been polluted to an unsafe level”.

He said the “contamination of our beautiful beaches and pristine water has been continuing unchecked - Dublin Bay is recognised by Unesco as an internationally important biosphere, but the Government is not protecting it”.

At the end of last month Minister for Local Government Eoghan Murphy welcomed the publication of the latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on bathing water quality in Ireland which noted “further improvements in the quality of Ireland’s bathing waters compared with last year”.

A ‘no swimming’ sign at Dollymount Strand where bathing has been prohibited due to a discharge of sewage from a waste water treatment plant into Dublin Bay. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.
A ‘no swimming’ sign at Dollymount Strand where bathing has been prohibited due to a discharge of sewage from a waste water treatment plant into Dublin Bay. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

In response to the latest bathing prohibition, a department spokesman said the overflows were caused “by exceptional levels of rainfall during a yellow rain warning in Dublin”.

‘Bubbling’

He said overflows were facilitated to ensure “raw sewage does not back up in the network and end up bubbling up into people’s front gardens” and pointed out that it was standard practice in wastewater treatment plants around the world. He said no plant or pumping station is designed to take extreme rainfall “and this could happen again in similar weather conditions”.

A Dublin City Council spokeswoman said the results of a tests on samples taken at Dollymount on Monday were not expected back until Thursday, when temperatures are due to rise to 27 degrees, and that the “prohibition will be in place until a clear set of results is obtained”.

An Irish Water spokesman said the notices would have to remain in place pending test results and said that “due to the nature of the [PROCESS], which sees water tested for the presence of bacteria samples had to be left to culture under lab conditions for at least 72 hours before the all clear could be given”.