Waterville investigating to determine the origin of mystery smell in Kerry village

The overwhelming stench, “a pungent gaseous smell,” may be related to seaweed trapped in sixty-year-old rock armour, it is suspected
Waterville investigating to determine the origin of mystery smell in Kerry village

Waterbille, Co Kerry. Picture: Denis Scannell

Investigations have been undertaken in the village of Waterville Co Kerry to determine the origin of a mystery smell.

The overwhelming stench, “a pungent gaseous smell,” may be related to seaweed trapped in 60-year-old rock armour, it is suspected.

Irish Water inspectors and council engineers have visited the location on the main waterfront and beach near the statue of Charlie Chaplin, a long term summer resident of the golf and fishing village.

The matter has been raised at council meetings but there is a reluctance to bring in machinery to clear the seaweed because the beach at that point is highly protected as a Special Area of Conservation.

Seaweed has come under suspicion after tests for caffeine and other human sewage-related material proved negative. 

Samples of bathing water taken at the beach in Waterville during the period of July to September have been satisfactory and in compliance with the bathing water standards.

The village got a new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant in 2013 after decades of campaigning.

Local councillor Norma Moriarty said it is time to resolve the matter.

This is not about finger-pointing but Waterville is a thriving village, enormously important in terms of golf and tourism for south Kerry and we need to get this resolved,” she said.

“It’s a pungent gaseous smell,” Ms Moriarty said, describing the occasion of the visit by Irish Water personnel to the promenade during the summer.

Ms Moriarty said American tourists were walking in the opposite direction of the inspectors, who she was accompaning. She added the next thing that happened was everyone in that part of the promenade was suddenly struck by an overwhelming stench.

Locals strongly suspect a deterioration in the rock armour laid down in the 1960s to protect the holiday village. 

There are areas where it has worn and seaweed is being trapped, they say.

Irish Water and their agents in Kerry County Council have checked the pipes and other wastewater infrastructure and they are clear of obstruction.

While it is not conclusive seaweed is causing the stench, the lower section near the village is where the seaweed is being trapped, Ms Moriarty said.

 Cllr. Norma Moriarty. Picture:  Alan Landers
Cllr. Norma Moriarty. Picture:  Alan Landers

Investigations of the sewer network have been undertaken by the Water Services Department and no evidence of any issue has been identified, a report by the council into the matter states.

"Visual inspections of the shoreline at Waterville have been undertaken by staff of the Environment Department which have identified the presence of accumulated seaweed," the report said.

But while the authorities concede that “it is possible” that, with warm and dry weather conditions, any odour-related issues may have related to the decomposition of seaweed material, they are reluctant to send in machines.

Sending in machines to a Special Area of Conservation is “no simple matter” and would need special authorisation, meetings have been told.

The stench is not necessarily weather-related and can occur even when the tide is in, locals say.

“My argument is to at least rule out the seaweed along with other eventualities. We need to find out exactly what is causing this problem. A solution is needed before next summer. No new materials are required apart from skilled machine work,” Ms Moriarty said.

Taking out the seaweed and repositioning the protecting rocks placed there in the 1960s, could all be done at the same time, Ms Moriarty has urged.

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