There have been renewed calls for a new sewage treatment plant for Youghal in Co Cork following the E.coli outbreak which has closed seven beaches.
Three of the contamin-ated beaches are in the tourism town, which has already been stripped of two of its Blue Flag beaches because of the ongoing problem with pollution.
The Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Barbara Murray, said she was hopeful work would start on a €20m sewage treatment plant for her hometown of Youghal by next November.
The town lost Blue Flag designation on its Front Strand and Claycastle beaches last year, but still retains one at Redbarn.
The lower readings were recorded at Redbarn, which is further away from the town.
This is likely to be due to the fact that sewage pumped into the bay was brought back into the other two beaches by spring tides and south-easterly winds.
Ms Murray said: “The tide normally takes out the sewage, but the prevailing weather conditions prevented that last week. There was also run-off from the land which came down to Youghal from the Blackwater estuary. This combination spelt a disaster.”
She said it was fortunate the inclement weather had not exactly encouraged people to flock to the town’s beaches.
“If the sun was splitting the stones and people couldn’t go swimming then it would be a lot worse,” said Ms Murray.
She said tourism had been affected by the bad weather, which she hoped would pick up. “People are turning indoors, so our pubs and restaurants are having a reasonably good season.”
She said it was imperative the Government sanctioned work on the town’s sewage treatment system.
“I’m hoping work on this project will get under way in November. At least it’s within our control to stop raw sewage being pumped into the bay,” said Ms Murray.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Bandon, Cllr Gillian Coughlan, said both West and East Cork depended a lot on the tourist season and the normally pristine beaches which attracted so many visitors from both here and abroad.
“The minister for the environment needs to take action quickly and work with Cork County Council, the HSE, An Taisce, and the EPA to ascertain the causes of the presence of E.coli. Detailed analysis needs to be carried out and steps must be taken to ensure this problem does not arise again,” said Ms Coughlan.
Tony Lowes, a director of Friends of the Irish Environment, said slurry spreading had been implicated as the source of E.coli which had washed into the sea during recent heavy rainstorms.
“Bays have been very green this year because algae is being fed in by raw sewage.”
He said the EPA has said that 46% of the country’s licensed sewage treatment plants were not working at 100% capacity and more plants were needed in line with the EU Water Frameworks Directive to prevent local authorities pumping untreated sewage into the sea.
“There are a lot of shovel- ready projects which can’t get government funding. The Government is simply not spending the money required to solve this problem,” said Mr Lowes.
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