The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study identified 136 bathing water areas around the country, both coastal and inland, and found that 94% met new, stricter EU standards, while 75% were deemed to be of “excellent” quality.
However, seven areas failed to meet the minimum standard — Youghal’s front strand; nearby Ardmore; Clifden and Ballyloughane in Galway; Duncannon in Co Wexford; the south beach in Rush in Co Dublin; and Lilliput in Lough Ennell in Co Westmeath.
Despite being rated as having poor water quality, the EPA said it did not necessarily mean a ban against people bathing there.
According to Peter Webster, EPA senior scientific officer: “The fact that these waters have been designated as being of ‘poor’ quality means that there is a requirement for local authorities to put in place notification for the entire bathing season advising the public against bathing, but this could include a bathing prohibition if a pollution incident occurs.”
The report found that the vast majority of bathing spots around the country are in excellent condition, with 128 rated as being of at least “sufficient” water quality status, while 103 were rated as excellent. 10 areas were deemed as having ‘sufficient’ water quality but the EPA warned that they remain vulnerable to episodic pollution.
Just one new bathing area was identified in the report, Trá Inis Oirr in Co Galway, and the EPA said it wanted to see more areas identified by local authorities so the public could be aware of them and local authorities could monitor water quality on a voluntary basis.
The bathing season officially begins on June 1 and will run until September 15. Tony Dolan of the EPA’s bathing water team said that in some cases — such as in Clifden — it might be expected that the standard will have improved considerably be next year, as a planned waste water treatment plant is due to come on stream.
He said the improvements for Youghal, for example, might take longer since it will be 2017 before a waste water plant is likely to be established, although he said he was hopeful that other measures and the weather might contribute to an increase in quality in the meantime.
Mr Dolan said many of the problems in areas identified as having poor quality bathing water were due to a lack of waste water treatment facilities, or in some cases, run-off pollution from local land.
He said Irish Water would have a more pronounced role in improving bathing water quality in circumstances where the issue is linked to water discharge, a point echoed by Mr Webster.
“In conjunction with Irish Water, local authorities have prepared and submitted to the EPA management plans for improving water quality at these sites,” he said.
Anyone wishing to receive updates on bathing water quality can log onto splash. epa.ie or follow @EPABathingWater on Twitter.