Quality of Ireland’s bathing waters remains high

Date released: May 05 2005

The quality of Ireland’s bathing waters continues to be of a high standard according to findings released today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   The EPA’s Bathing Water Report 2004 also points to the positive impact of wastewater treatment facilities on bathing water quality.
A total of 131 bathing areas, both seawater and freshwater, were monitored throughout the 2004 bathing season.  They 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 EPA also monitored compliance with additional parameters set by Ireland (National Limit Values) to examine areas such as water colour, transparency, faecal streptococci and dissolved oxygen.
The key findings from this assessment are that:

  • 128 of the 131 bathing areas (98 per cent) complied with the minimum standards laid down under EU legislation.  127 bathing areas complied in 2003.
  • 115 of the 131 (88 per cent) bathing areas complied with the much stricter guideline standards specified by the EU.  111 bathing areas complied in 2003.
  • 99 of the 131 (76 per cent) of bathing areas complied with the more extensive National Limit Values.  102 bathing areas complied in 2003.

A number of bathing water areas in the Dublin area experienced an improvement in bathing water quality since 2002. A major contributory factor to this improvement was the commissioning of a new wastewater treatment facility at Ringsend in Dublin.  This has significantly reduced the quantity of partly-treated or untreated sewage entering the greater Dublin Bay area.  The bathing areas that showed the most notable water quality improvement were Malahide, Portmarnock, and Dollymount.
The three bathing areas that failed to comply with the mandatory EU standards were Skerries and Balbriggan in Co. Dublin (both in the Fingal County Council area) and Dunmore East, Main Strand in Co. Waterford.  Balbriggan failed to meet the mandatory standard for both total and faecal coliforms.  Skerries failed to meet the standard for total coliforms and Dunmore East, Main Strand failed to meet the standard for faecal coliforms.
The planned construction of a number of new Waste Water Treatment Plants including proposed plants for Balbriggan/Skerries and Dunmore East should, when operational, prevent untreated waste-water being discharged into the sea and therefore reduce the risk of bathing water compliance failures occurring.
Many of the sites which failed the National Standards did so on physio-chemical parameters such as transparency, colour and dissolved oxygen which are not considered for EU compliance. The high number of such failures were most likely due to the presence of a red/orange coloured algal bloom which was reported along the south-coast by the Marine Institute in July. The species of phytoplankton which caused the algal bloom is not uncommon at that time of year when water temperatures increase.