EPA releases Bathing Water Quality Report 2011

Date released: May 03 2012

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today launched the report The Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland – An Overview for the Year 2011.

Report findings show that:

  • the quality of Ireland’s bathing waters remains high, with 98.5 per cent of identified bathing areas meeting the EU mandatory standards and classed as being of ‘sufficient’ water quality status. 
  • 83 per cent of bathing waters met higher EU guideline standards and are classified as being of ‘good’ status.
  • five local authorities achieved “good” status for all of their designated bathing areas;
  • Five new bathing areas were designated by local authorities in 2011, bringing the total number of identified bathing areas to 135.

Commenting on the bathing water quality results, Ms Laura Burke, EPA Director General, said:

“The quality of bathing waters in Ireland remains high and shows a sustained improvement in the numbers of bathing areas achieving ‘sufficient’ status over the last few years. There has been a drop in the numbers of areas achieving ‘good’ status this year, although five local authorities achieved ‘good’ status for all of their designated bathing water sites.  While compliance with current bathing water quality standards is high, stricter standards will take effect from 2014 and these will require greater vigilance to ensure our bathing waters continue to be among the best in Europe.”

Local authorities designated 5 new bathing areas for the 2011 bathing season bringing the total of identified bathing areas to 135, comprising 126 seawater and 9 freshwater.

Commenting on the increase in the number of bathing areas, Peter Webster, EPA Senior Scientific Officer said:

“We would hope that all visitors to Irish beaches can enjoy good quality bathing water and clean modern facilities, knowing that their health and the environment are protected.  Public participation plays an important role in the identification of bathing waters and we welcome the inclusion by three local authorities of additional beaches in their monitoring programs. Nationally we have approximately 27 beaches per million of the population which is below the EU average and we would strongly encourage other authorities to identify further bathing areas for designation and water quality monitoring.”

Report Findings
Bathing water was monitored throughout the 2011 bathing season for two microbiological parameters, E.Coli and Intestinal Enterococci.  The results of the analysed samples were assessed for compliance with two sets of EU standards:  minimum quality standards (EU Mandatory values) and the more stringent quality targets (EU Guide values).

The key findings from this assessment were that:

  • The number of bathing areas meeting the EU mandatory standards reached a new high with 98.5% (133 of the 135 bathing areas) being compliant.  By comparison, 97% of bathing areas met these standards in the 2010 bathing season
  • 83% (112 of the 135 bathing areas) complied with the much stricter EU guideline standards. This is lower than the previous year when 90% of bathing areas met these standards.  However, 2011 was the first year of the implementation of transitional arrangements for the assessment of bathing water quality and changes in microbiological parameters, coupled with poorer weather conditions at times throughout the summer, may have contributed to a drop in the numbers of waters achieving ‘good’ status.
  • Of the eighteen Local Authorities who had designated bathing areas, five achieved ‘good; status for all of their identified bathing waters. These were: Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, Louth, Mayo, Meath and Wicklow County Councils.
  • Two of the 135 bathing areas (1.5%) failed to comply with the minimum mandatory standards and were classified as having poor quality status.  These were Clifden Beach (Galway) and White Strand (Miltown Malbay). In the case of Clifden Beach, a program of remedial works for the nearby wastewater treatment plant which has recently been licensed by the EPA should bring about significant improvements in water quality in the near future.  In the case of Miltown Malbay the classification resulted from an uncharacteristically poor sample result taken after bad weather.  

Throughout the 2012 bathing season, up-to-date bathing water quality information, as provided by the local authorities, will be displayed on the Splash website.  The site also gives information on the compliance history of each bathing area, details of blue flag status, bathing safety, weather and tidal information, along with aerial photography. 

The summary report The Quality of Bathing Water in Ireland – An Overview for the Year 2011 and map of the quality of Ireland’s bathing water sites, are now available on the EPA website. A list of the compliance and water quality status for each of Ireland’s identified bathing waters is also available.

ENDS

Further information: Niamh Hatchell EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)

Note to Editors:
EU Mandatory Standards: These are the minimum standards that the water quality at bathing areas must achieve over the bathing season.

EU Guide values: These are stricter guideline standards that bathing areas should endeavour to achieve over the bathing season.

Assessment in 2011 focussed on analyses of Escherichia Coli (E.Coli) and Intestinal Enterococci in contrast to previous years where assessment was undertaken on the basis of Total and Faecal Coliforms and a range of physico-chemical parameters.

Bathing areas were classified as follows:
• Compliant with guide and mandatory values achieves good water quality status.
• Compliant with mandatory values only achieves sufficient water quality status.
• Non-compliant with mandatory values results in poor water quality status.