EPA calls for more designated bathing water areas

Date released: May 11 2007

Local authorities are being encouraged to designate more bathing sites, according to the latest Bathing Water Quality Report released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The EPA report calls for the current number of 131 nationally designated bathing sites to be increased to 160 to help ensure the protection of public health related to swimming.

Mr. Gerard O’Leary, Programme Manager, EPA said,  “While the overall level of bathing water quality remains high, the EPA remains concerned that a small number of bathing areas do not conform to the minimum mandatory standards”.

Report Findings:
In all, 131 bathing areas, comprising 122 seawater and 9 freshwater, were monitored throughout the 2006 bathing water season.  The results of samples analysed were assessed for compliance with two sets of EU standards:  minimum quality standards (EU Mandatory Values) and more stringent quality targets (EU Guide values).

The key findings from this assessment show little overall change in national compliance levels from the previous year:
· 127 of the 131 bathing areas (97 per cent) complied with the mandatory standards, which is one more than in 2005.
· 118 of the 131 (90 per cent) bathing areas complied with the much stricter EU guideline standards, which is one fewer than in 2005.

The sites that failed to comply with the minimum EU mandatory standard were:
Balbriggan (Dublin Fingal), Malahide (Dublin Fingal), Clifden (Galway) and Dunmore East Main Strand (Waterford).  Balbriggan, Malahide and Clifden failed to meet the EU mandatory standard for both total and faecal coliforms while Dunmore East Main Strand failed to meet the standard for faecal coliforms.  Of these four beaches, only Clifden had failed also in the previous year.

Gerard O’Leary said, “The primary reason for sites failing the EU standards was due to inadequately treated sewage.”  He continued, “Local Authorities should continually update the public on the quality of bathing waters during the upcoming bathing water season.  Where problems with water quality are showing up they must take the necessary actions to ensure that water quality complies with the bathing water standards.”

On the positive side, out of the eighteen Local Authorities who have designated bathing areas, eleven complied fully with the EU standards (i.e. guide and mandatory) for all of their bathing areas. These were: Cork County Council, Donegal County Council, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council, Galway City Council, Kerry County Council, Louth County Council, Mayo County Council, Meath County Council, Westmeath County Council, Wexford County Council and Wicklow County Council.

The findings of the report on the 2006 season, along with a map of the quality of Ireland’s bathing water, are now available on the EPA website at:
www.epa.ie/downloads/pubs/water/bathing/

ENDS

Further information: Niamh Leahy, EPA Media Relations Office 053-917 0770 (24 hours)

Notes to Editor
The Bathing Directive (76/160/EEC) is now over 25 years old and a new Directive (2006/7/EC) was adopted in February 2006.  Ireland along with other Member States have until March 2008 to comply with its provisions. The revised Directive offers an opportunity to improve management practices at bathing sites and to standardize the information provided to bathers across Europe.