This document presents findings and results for 2002 on the quality of Ireland's bathing waters.
Summary: The EPA collates water quality results from each local authority involved in the study and compiles a national report that is sent to the European Commission to ensure compliance with the EC Directive concerning the quality of bathing waters (76/160/EEC).
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During the 2002 bathing season, monitoring of water quality at designated bathing sites in Ireland was as usual undertaken in accordance with the EC Directive concerning the quality of bathing waters (76/160/EEC). The purpose of the Directive is to ensure that bathing water quality is maintained and if necessary improved so that it complies with specified standards designed to protect public health and the environment. The number of designated areas has increased over the years to a total of 131 sites in 2002 (this number includes both sea water and freshwater areas). Local authorities are responsible for sampling (or arranging the sampling) of waters at the bathing sites in their areas. They are also required to conduct periodic investigations to determine the volume, nature and effect of all possible potential polluting discharges at the bathing areas. The role of the Environmental Protection Agency is to collate the water quality results from each local authority involved and to compile a national report that is sent to the European Commission. A single European wide report is published annually by the European Commission. Sampling of waters must be undertaken every two weeks between mid May and 31 August. The minimum number of samples is therefore seven although this may be reduced to four under certain conditions. Increased monitoring is required where there is a deterioration in the quality of the water. Each sample obtained must be analysed for the following microbiological and physico-chemical parameters:
Over the bathing season, water quality at each area must comply with the mandatory standards specified in the Directive for these parameters. In addition guide values have also been specified, which are more stringent than the mandatory values. These guide values can be regarded as quality objectives which all bathing sites should endeavour to achieve. Under Irish legislation additional national standards have also been established for a number of parameters.
In general the quality of the bathing water in Ireland is very good with most of the bathing areas (97.7 per cent) complying with the minimum mandatory standards. In addition, 84.7 per cent of the bathing areas also complied with the guide values for the parameters total and faecal coliforms, mineral oils, surface active substances and phenols. This is a decline from the 2001 figure of 87.8 per cent.
An assessment of the water quality with respect to the additional national standards prescribed under Irish legislation indicates that all 131 bathing sites complied with the National Limit Values for faecal coliforms and total coliforms. In addition, 90.6 per cent of the sites complied with the National Limit Value for faecal streptococci and while only 53 sites were tested for dissolved oxygen, 83 per cent of these complied with the guide limit value. Information from Met …ireann indicates that rainfall figures for Ireland during the 2002 bathing season was below normal in August, but were very variable over the country. It was wetter than normal in many parts for June and July. Sunshine totals for the season were very dull in most places for June, July and the first half of August. August was relatively sunny in the second half of the month. June and July temperatures were cooler than normal while August was a little warmer than normal.