'It's absolutely shocking' – Pollution fears see swimming warnings at over 50 beaches

Swimming has been banned at over 50 beaches around the country.
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.10 23 Aug 2023

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'It's absolutely shocking' – P...

'It's absolutely shocking' – Pollution fears see swimming warnings at over 50 beaches

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

10.10 23 Aug 2023

Share this article

Swimming warnings are in place at over 50 beaches around the country as the recent rainfall again saw sewage systems overwhelmed.

The Government’s site lists swimming restrictions on 13 Cork beaches, as well as 10 in Dublin, nine in Kerry, seven in Donegal, six in Clare and four in Galway.

Swimming is currently banned at six beaches around the country, including three in Dublin, one in Donegal,  one in Waterford and one in Galway:

  • Sandymount
  • Buncrana
  • Dollymount
  • Dunmore East
  • Clifden Beach
  • Merrion Beach

Meanwhile, swimming is advised against at nine Irish beaches:

  • Lahinch
  • Ballynamona Strand
  • Rocky Bay
  • Oysterhaven
  • Cadogans Strand, Schull
  • Ballyrisode
  • Keeldra Lough
  • Trá na mBan, An Spideal
  • Balbriggan, Dublin

Prior Warning Notices are in place at nearly 40 other beaches around the country - with councils warning that there is a risk the water quality could soon deteriorate due to the heavy rainfall.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) director Tony Lowes explained what is happening on Ireland’s beaches.

“There are a number of problems here but we are looking immediately I think, at the problem of raw sewage being dumped off our coastline,” he said.

“This is unacceptable in the age in which we live and it is very slow to be corrected.

“You have this problem of heavy rainfalls overcoming sewage outflows and stormwater outflows but you also have septic tanks not functioning.”

Lahinch Lahinch, Clare, Ireland, 19-07-2012. Image: Peter Zoeller/Design Pics

He said there are around 500,000 septic tanks in Ireland and only a tiny proportion are inspected each year.

Of the 1,100 inspections that are carried out each year, 53% are failing.

“There are many, many problems here and we are just not tackling them,” he said.

“I think we can lay the blame at everybody’s door; we should all be doing better but ultimately the failure to invest in wastewater treatment plants is holding up development all over the country.

“You cannot add more dwellings to an area where already you have malfunctioning sewage overflows so naturally, the local authorities are refusing permission for new developments – because we can’t clean all this up.”

Sheep grazing at the coast of Beara Peninsula near the village of Allihies (co. Cork), photo taken May 29, 2013.

Mr Lowes said agriculture is also a huge water polluter even when there isn’t any rain.

“It is absolutely shocking what is going on out there,” he said.

“Our offices are on the Beara Peninsula in West Cork and I swim just down below us here and you would think you were in the most unspoiled, idyllic spot in the world.

“The water is so green that I can’t see my feet down there because of the algae that has been fed by runoff from over grazing our coastal farmlands.”

He said the only way to improve our coastal water is to “attack each of the problems and attack them seriously”.

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