Tougher standards see 16 top bathing spots lose Blue Flag status

Sixteen of the country’s best-known bathing spots have lost their coveted blue flag status this year after the introduction of more stringent standards for testing water quality by the EU.

Elena Green, from Crumlin and Margaret Thomas from Dundrum who took a break from their swim to help announce a new Blue Flag  at Seapoint, Dublin. Picture: Maxwells

However, three other beaches have been added to the list, with Killiney and Seapoint in Co Dublin regaining their status, while the Royal Yacht Club Marina in Cork obtains the award for the first time.

Overall, 70 beaches and four marinas were awarded the much-prized blue flag, a decrease of 13 on last year.

A spokeswoman for An Taisce said the reduction was predicted because of the new, tougher standards.

The new criteria are based on the 2006 EU Bathing Water Directive and replace the much older standards which date from 1976.

An Taisce, which oversees the blue flag scheme in Ireland, said the new standards were in line with the latest scientific information and current best practice.

Each blue flag beach has to meet a strict set of criteria in relation to water quality, information provision, environmental education and beach management to obtain an “excellent” standard.

The classification of the bathing water is now based on water samples taken over a four-year period rather than in a single year.

Several beaches which met the “good” standard were not considered for the award.

The awards were presented yesterday by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who also announced 45 recipients of the National Green Coast Awards,

Donegal topped the list of blue flag awards with 13 beaches followed by Kerry and Mayo with 12 each.

Eight popular bathing spots failed to meet the new blue flag standards: Skerries South Beach; Donabate; The Brook Beach, Portrane; and The Velvet Strand, Portmarnock (all Co Dublin); Ballybunion North Beach, Co Kerry; White Strand Miltown Malbay and Lahinch (both Co Clare) and Ceibh an Spideal, Co Galway.

Another eight well-known beaches which obtained a blue flag in 2012 did not apply to retain it this year: Dollymount, Co Dublin; Morriscastle, Co Wexford; Bunmahon, Co Waterford; Redbarn, Garryvoe, Garretstown and Barleycove, (all Co Cork); and Old Head, Co Mayo.

Mullaghmore in Co Sligo could not be awarded a blue flag due to ongoing problems with livestock roaming on the main beach, which has resulted in an unsafe environment.

Under the National Green Coast Award scheme, 45 beaches which do not have the necessary infrastructure to qualify for blue flag status were recognised for their clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty.

However, eight beaches lost their green coast status; Skerries South Beach, The Brook Beach, Portrane; Balcarrick and The Velvet Strand, Portmarnock (all Co Dublin); Mornington, Co Meath; Silverstrand, Co Mayo; Ladies Bay, Co Donegal and Arklow South Beach, Co Wicklow.

Four other beaches which held the award in 2012 did not apply to renew their status: Dollymount and Malahide, (both Co Dublin) and Garryvoe and Fountainstown, (both Co Cork).

- More information on the blue flag beaches can be found at www.blueflagireland.org.


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