Cork County Council published the results shortly after 10am yesterday showing that all seven beaches were considerably below the permitted EU level of 2,000 E.coli particles per 100ml of water.
However, as a delighted Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Barbara Murray, went for a dip in her hometown of Youghal, lifeguards rushed over to prevent herself and some companions from swimming at the Front Strand.
Cllr Murray said she’d seen the test results and carried on regardless. “The results speak for themselves,” she said.
The mayor said she wanted to show people it was now safe to bathe at the town’s Front Strand, which had the county’s second highest E.coli reading when tested last week.
Similar confusion occurred at the town’s remaining Blue Flag beach at Redbarn.
Quality Hotel general manager Alan McEnery directed his guests to go swimming across the bay in Ardmore, Co Waterford, after E.coli at Redbarn exceeded acceptable levels last week. He said he was “absolutely delighted” to tell them yesterday morning that Redbarn was safe again.
“We were telling our customers that the water was fine. But no Blue Flag had been put up and then lifeguards were telling people not to go in,” he said.
He criticised the fact that it took three days for the results of tests carried out last Monday to be published.
“Surely such results could have been turned abound a bit quicker. People could have gone back into the water three days ago,” he said.
Back at the Front Strand two men in their 50s admitted they’d swam there nearly every day since the council put up warning signs advising against it.
“As children we swam here when the town had four slaughter houses and a tannery which were spewing stuff into the bay. There was no testing back then,” said Michael Treacy, 57.
Liam Cooper, 59, said he remembered when the “stink” used to be terrible, but they still used to go for a dip.
“I’ve been swimming at the Front Stand for 50 years and if I haven’t built up an immune system now I never will,” he said.
Karen Skelly, from Donegal, had no fear letting her three young daughters and son into the sea.
“When we first heard it was contaminated we went to Ardmore, or the local swimming pool. I’ve no problem letting them in the sea now the results are all clear,” she said.
Julie Buckley took her five-month-old son Donnacha for a paddle.
“I’m very happy to go in with him. It’s no fun when you can’t swim in Youghal,” said Julie.
Aileen Murray, tourism manager for the Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group, said it was imperative that work started soon on the town’s proposed €20m sewerage treatment plant, so raw sewerage was not pumped into the bay.
It is believed that and slurry washing off the land during rain storms were responsible for the high E.coli levels.
Ms Murray added that the town does not focus solely on its beach for tourism any more. “We have a lot of all-weather facilities such as the Aura Leisure Centre, Perks’ Amusements, the greyhound track, etc. We are also developing heritage tourism. The town council and the Heritage Council have invested hugely in the town,” she said.
The county council said it was awaiting the green light from the HSE to remove signs on all beaches which recommended no swimming.
However, a HSE spokesman said that was the council’s decision, which the council refuted.
The HSE said further results were due out today and it would have further discussions with the council when they were known.
* EU limit is 2,000 particles per 100ml of water
Test results Aug 13-15/ Test results Aug 20 (published yesterday)
* Oysterhaven 12,033 / 175
* Youghal Front Strand 7,701 / 448
* Coolmaine (Kilbrittain) 6,488 / 404
* Garryvoe 4,106 / 75
* Youghal Claycastle 3,964 / 465
* Garretstown 2,909 / 30
* Youghal Redbarn 2,841 / 142