Seven Irish bathing spots fail to meet EU minimum water standards

Fail: Rush South Beach in north Dublin was graded as poor in the publication
Fail: Rush South Beach in north Dublin was graded as poor in the publication

A total of 94 per cent of Irish bathing waters are meeting new stricter EU standards, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said following the publication of a report.

The agency published a report on the quality of bathing water at every major beach in the country. 

One in twenty passed the new, strict guidelines surrounding the quality of bathing water but seven of the country's more popular beaches failed to meet the minimum standards. 

Sewage has been blamed for many of the following bathing spots not passing the strict guidelines:

  • Youghal Front Strand in Cork,
  • Ardmore in Waterford,
  • Duncannon in Wexford,
  • Rush South beach in North Dublin,
  • Clifden and Ballyloughane in Galway
  • Lilliput on Lough Ennell in Westmeath.

All pf the spots failed the tests because of sewage pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

In all seven cases the EPA said the problems were linked to the impact of waste water discharges and the local authorities and Irish Water have put in place management plans to tackle the main pollution risks.

“Overall, the quality of Ireland’s bathing waters continues to be very good and new standards introduced in 2014 provide a much higher level of protection for bathers,” the director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Assessment, Dr Matt Crowe said.

New stricter guidelines regarding the quality of bathing water meant beaches had to meet standards more than twice as strict as previous standards. Three-quarters of Irish bathing waters qualified for the new classification of “excellent’’ quality.

This means that Ireland maintains its position as one of the leading countries in western and northern Europe for quality bathing water. 

Peter Webster, EPA senior scientific officer, said the agency would like to see more popular bathing spots on its official register of designating swimming locations.

“Ireland has many superb beaches and, while monitoring them all would be quite impractical, the EPA would like to see an increase in the numbers of identified bathing areas,” he said.
Rush South Beach was the only bathing spot in Dublin to fail to meet the new standards. Fingal County Council and Irish Water will now have to put plans in place to tackle the problem of poor quality bathing water at the popular beach.
The council is now planning to introduce inspections of nearby septic tanks and to begin dog fouling inspections in the area. In the longer term, there are proposals to connect Rush to the wider sewerage scheme that serves Portrane, Donabate and Lusk.
"The test will be whether or not we see the necessary improvements in water quality at these beaches," said Webster.
Scientist Mr Webster also pointed out that although water quality may be poor, it does not necessarily mean it is unsafe to swim in.