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Irish beaches slightly less clean in 2012 than previous year

A new European report also shows that the weather led to ‘elevated bacterial populations’ on some beaches.

File:  Luke Halligan (17 from Dublin) jumps in at the Forty Foot at Sandycove
File: Luke Halligan (17 from Dublin) jumps in at the Forty Foot at Sandycove
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

IRELAND’S BEACHES ARE among the cleanest in Europe, a report shows, but there was a slight decrease in cleanliness of them last year.

A new European Environment Agency report showed that 136 bathing waters were monitored in Ireland in 2012.

Four of the country’s swimming areas had already been given a poor grade by the EPA after failing to meet basic EU standards: Fountainstown (Cork), Rush (Dublin), Ballyheigue (Kerry) and Clifden (Galway).

Water quality

In Ireland, 96.9 per cent of the coastal bathing waters met the EU mandatory water quality in 2012, which is a decrease of 1.5 per cent compared to the previous year.

The rate of compliance with the guide values decreased from 84.1 per cent to 66.1 per cent. Four places were non-compliant with the mandatory value for E.coli compared to one in 2011, which is an increase of 2.3 per cent. No locations were classified as closed during the bathing season in 2012, and there was one closed the previous year.

All inland areas monitored met the mandatory water quality in 2012 as in 2011, and the rate of compliance with the guide values increased from 66.7 per cent to 77.8 per cent.

The report also found that weather impacts in 2012 resulted in a number of instances of elevated bacterial populations in some bathing areas.

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According to the EPA:

Weather had a major impact in the reduction of numbers of beaches achieving the guide values with many bathing areas, particularly in the south and southwest, experiencing repeated low levels of pollution related to run-off from urban areas and agricultural lands where livestock were grazing or where animal manures had been spread. Some beaches were also impacted by wastewater storm overflows. Many areas experienced 2-3 times their expected summer rainfall and June was particularly wet with severe storms causing localised flooding at times.

A number of beaches in Cork had restrictions put in place last August after e.coli exceeded safety levels, including Redbarn, the Front Strand and Claycastle in Youghal; Garreststown near Kinsale; Garryvoe near Castlemartyr; Coolmaine near Kilbrittain; and Oysterhaven.

An e.coli advisory was also put in place in July 2012 at three beaches in Co Clare.

Overall in Europe, the quality of 94 per cent of all bathing waters met at least the minimum mandatory level, and bathing water quality improved at 1.8 per cent of sites in 2012 compared to 2011.

Read: Balbriggan beach reopens and is deemed safe for swimming>

Read: Life’s a beach: Blue Flag status awarded to eight more than in 2010>

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