Bathers beware ... water quality at half of city beaches has got worse
The water quality at half of the beaches in Dublin has declined in the past year.
In its latest Bathing Water Quality Report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that despite 93pc of Ireland's 137 bathing waters having passed its strict quality tests with a rating of "excellent", a number of sites in Dublin had their quality rating reduced from "good" to "sufficient" or "poor".
Over the past 12 months, the EPA tested the water at 14 bathing areas throughout Dublin for bacteria linked to gastro-intestinal illnesses, urinary tract infections and meningitis.
Of those tested, the EPA ranked several lower than in its previous 2014 report.
They are Dollymount Strand, Merrion Strand and Sandymount Strand - maintained by Dublin City Council; and the Front Beach in Balbriggan, Loughshinny Beach, Brook Beach in Portrane, Rush South Beach and Skerries' South Beach, overseen by Fingal County Council. All were listed as having "poorer results".
The EPA reported that "wastewater" was most likely linked to the increased levels of pollution and dangerous bacteria found at these sites. Some of the containments present included human and animal faeces, household rubbish and industrial run-off.
Any waters graded as "poor" require the managing local authority to eliminate the sources of pollution.
Merrion Strand and Loughshinny Beach were singled out in the report as being among the six worst bathing areas in Ireland in terms of water quality.
"Disappointingly, these two bathing waters were newly classified as 'poor' in 2015," said Peter Webster, an EPA senior scientific officer.
"In the case of Merrion Strand, the problem is complex and has been developing for several years with impacts from nearby streams and from an increasing number of seabirds causing microbiological pollution.
"For Loughshinny, a single sample taken in 2014 after very heavy rainfall coupled with slightly poorer quality in 2015 caused it to fail the standard."
Asked if it was safe to bathe at these sites, Mr Webster said: "The fact that any bathing water has been classified as 'poor' means that there is a risk of periodic microbiological pollution. Bathers visiting these waters are advised to check their local beach notice boards for information on current water quality."
The EPA said seasonal bathing restrictions would be "enforced in 2016 for both sites", adding that it was now working with Dublin City Council and Fingal County Council to bring both beaches up to the "standards required for the public's safety".