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EPA reveals Ireland's best and worst quality bathing sites

Just two beaches received a ‘poor’ quality rating.

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION Agency (EPA) has reported that the quality of Ireland’s bathing water continued to improve last year, with 97% of sites meeting or exceeding the minimum standard.

Bathing areas are classified in one of four categories: ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’.

Of the 148 sites across the country, 115 had excellent water quality and the number of beaches with poor water quality reduced to two, compared with four the previous year.

Balbriggan’s Front Strand beach in Dublin received a poor quality rating as it is impacted by sewage discharges and misconnections; faeces from dogs, birds and other animals and contaminated surface streams flowing through the town, the EPA said.

Lady’s Bay in Buncrana, Co Donegal also received a poor quality rating because it is impacted by Buncrana waste water treatment plant, combined stormwater overflows, and surface run-off, which are made worse by heavy rainfall.

The report includes a map of all bathing sites, indicating whether they received a rating of ’excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’:

Source: EPA

Click here for a larger version of this map

The EPA said improvements seen last year are a result of enhanced management of bathing waters over many years, combined with investments in treatment of urban waste water.

The EPA said that while bathing water quality has improved, there are still issues which need to be addressed, to protect and further improve bathing waters.

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“Agriculture, urban waste water and fouling from dogs on beaches still impact the quality of bathing waters,” it said. “In addition, heavy rainfall can also quickly impact by washing pollution into our bathing waters.”

The EPA report specifically highlights improvements at Lilliput, Lough Ennell in Westmeath after three years of having a poor quality rating.

“During 2020 and 2021, the bathing water quality improved significantly due to actions taken by farmers in the surrounding area,” it said.

“This was driven by evidence and science generated by Westmeath County Council, the Local Authority Waters Programme and the Agricultural Sustainability, Support and Advisory Programme working together. As a result, the restriction on swimming has been removed.”

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