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Questions over this weekend's Liffey Swim after water samples found to be "exceptionally poor"

Dublin City Council says that the results “significantly exceed the maximum permitted levels for designated bathing waters”.

Updated Aug 2nd 2019, 5:59 PM

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QUESTIONS HANG OVER the Liffey Swim this weekend after it emerged that water samples from the Dublin river are “exceptionally poor”.

Dublin City Council tested the water quality after sewer debris was discharged into the Liffey following heavy rains earlier this week. The 100th Liffey Swim is due to take place in the city centre this Saturday. 

The council said this evening in a statement that:

Water samples of the River Liffey were taken on 31 July and 1 August 2019 and the results became available today, Friday 2 August at 1.30pm. The results are exceptionally poor, and significantly exceed the maximum permitted levels for designated bathing waters.

The HSE has also said that it was informed today of a significant increase in bacteria found in the River Liffey in water samples taken between Glenaulin Park and East Link Toll Bridge between 31 July and 1 August.

It said:

“Swimming and other water based activities in this water may cause illness.”

It said that in order to reduce the risk of contracting illness, people engaged in activities in the River Liffey should take the following precautions:

  • Avoid swimming or other water activities in the River Liffey if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system.
  • Avoid swallowing or splashing water as much as possible.
  • Avoid swimming or other water activities with an open cut or wound – if you have one, make sure it is covered appropriately.
  • Wash your hands before handling food.
  • Shower after swimming or water based activities.

If you develop illness following swimming or water based activities in the River Liffey, the HSE advises that you seek medical advice, “letting them know about your water-based activity”.

Dublin City Council said that Irish Water was also made aware yesterday evening of an overflow or discharge of sewage from its sewer network in the area of Knockmaroon.

“This discharge may have been active for some days before being rectified,” said the council.

“We were advised at 12.30pm today, 2 August by Irish Water that the matter is now resolved and the discharge has ceased. Notices have been placed at the designated bathing water locations.”

4826 Launch Liffey Swim_90576154 Source: Leah Farrell

The council said that due to the fact that the annual Liffey Swim is scheduled to take place tomorrow – Saturday 3 August – DCC has notified the HSE and the event organisers of these sample results.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to get any more up to date samples taken and tested in advance of the event. The river Liffey is not a designated bathing water location.

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The council said that:

While any decision in relation to this event is a matter for the organisers, it is noted that a number of tidal cycles will have taken place prior to the Liffey Swim and that, as is done every year, the ESB will increase flows in the Liffey prior to the event to further dilute any residual contaminants.
It would, therefore, be hoped that the river water quality will have improved significantly by the time of the event but, unfortunately, no guarantees can be given in this regard.

Dublin City Council said in relation to the Liffey Swim: “Given the long history of this event, [DCC] regrets that the water quality in the Liffey would appear to have been badly impacted by this unforeseeable event and it looks forward to working with Irish Water and all other agencies to achieve improved water quality in all our water courses in the future.”

In a statement earlier today, before DCC released the news about the water samples, the ESB said that it has, in the past, released water from its dams along the River Liffey to facilitate the Liffey Swim. However, it went on:

ESB has been in touch with the race organisers of this year’s Liffey swim and they do not require ESB’s assistance for this particular event. ESB has a long and proud history of facilitating sporting and community groups along the full breath of the River Liffey. ESB looks forward to continuing this support into the future.

The organisers of the Liffey Swim have been contacted this evening for comment.

On Wednesday, when the organisers were contacted about the sewage discharge, TheJournal.ie received this statement:

The Jones Engineering 100th Dublin Liffey Swim will go ahead as planned on Saturday 3rd August. The men’s race will begin at 12pm and the women’s race will begin at 1pm, starting at Watling Bridge and finishing at Custom House Quay.

However, there has been no confirmation this evening about whether the swim will go ahead following the news about the water samples. 

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