A tourist town without an adequate sewerage system is set to lose blue flag designation on three of its beaches.
Youghal’s Front Strand and Claycastle beaches have failed to meet water quality criteria and will forfeit the designation this year.
However, under a special dispensation, Redbarn on the western side of the town will retain the beach award for 2012 only.
The town is expected to lose blue flag status until 2017 at least, having failed to reach an “excellent” rating. However, all three beaches achieved a secondary quality rating of “good” and remain safe and suitable for bathing.
A total of 82 beaches throughout the country hold blue flag status, with 15 of those in Co Cork.
Town clerk Liam Ryan advised local councillors that Youghal “cannot realistically expect to see a blue flag on its beaches again until about 2017”.
Cork County Council’s county engineer Noel O’Keefe said the design and network planning processes for a €20m waste water treatment and sewerage scheme were completed and could be out for tender within two months.
However, he said the council did not have a required €6.5m to meet its 36% share of funding.
Blue flags are awarded to beaches nominated by local authorities and subject to regular bathing water quality monitoring.
According to Mr Ryan, all three beaches in Youghal have intermittently lost their blue flags over recent years.
Councillors said the loss of the awards was a blow to a town battling to offset years of factory closures and heavy job losses with a new family friendly tourism drive focusing on beach and fishing attractions.
“It’s unfortunate,” said town mayor Eoin Coyne, “but it must be stressed that Youghal’s beaches remain very safe for bathing and all water activities. We will overcome this setback.”
A new Irish Water regulatory body is due to come into force next year. County engineer Mr O’Keeffe said it was important that contract documents were signed for the new schemes before the body came into being.
“All going well, the project would be completed by late 2014 and it would then take a few years for the benefits to influence the new regulation system,” he said.
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