Saturday 22 October 2016

Concern over water 'taken seriously', says Liffey Swim chief

Competitors in the Liffey Swim could be at risk due to high levels of bacteria in the water
Competitors in the Liffey Swim could be at risk due to high levels of bacteria in the water

LIFFEY Swim organisers say they will be looking seriously into the water quality of the river after a high number of Dublin City Triathlon (DCT) competitors fell ill after last week's race.

Some 1,000 participants took part in this year's triathlon, which included a section on the River Liffey, with a number of people reporting bacterial infections.

However, event manager for the Liffey Swim Gus Cooney told the Herald that he is confident the event will go ahead and said that the area where the race takes place is "lovely for swimming in".

He said that pre-planned talks between organisers and Dublin City Council are set to go ahead tomorrow night and he expects the issue of the water conditions to be on the agenda.


The concern over the health risks of swimming in the Liffey - including cryptosporidiosis and, on rare occasions, Weil's disease - was reported in a Sunday newspaper.

Mr Cooney said he was unaware of any issues with water quality.

"It's the first I've heard of it," said Mr Cooney.

"It's obviously something that we'll take seriously and if that story can be proved one way or the other we'll definitely do something about it."

The Liffey swim altered the route of the race previously due to similar issues, but organisers don't see it changing again.

"We used to do the upper Liffey Swim, up near Chapelizod, but we stopped that because of concerns over water quality, but in the last 20 years we haven't had a problem with it," said Mr Cooney.

"We're currently travelling down from the Guinness Storehouse to the Custom House."

Mr Cooney said that two races have already take place near the Docklands area of the river without any issues.

"We've arranged with the ESB to put a gush of water down the sea base beforehand at low tide, because at low tide it's not pleasant," he said.

"There's a lot of gunge and debris in the water, but at high tide swimmers will be too far above all that. We'll have fresh water at the top and it's lovely.

"The very first race that was held in Dublin in 1920 was to show the citizens of Dublin how clean the Liffey was and, apart from a few years in the 1960s, there has been nothing wrong with it," added Mr Cooney.

However, DCT organisers say there is a strong possibility of them cutting out the swimming section of their competition and making it a duathlon, with just running and cycling.

Organiser Bernard Hanratty, from Piranha Triathlon Club, said heavy rainwater caused this year's problems.

"We did water tests two days beforehand and everything came out fine, but it rained non-stop for 10 hours on the day and there was nothing we could do about it," said Mr Hanratty.

"We've sent out a questionnaire, which will be open to competitors until close of business on Tuesday," he added.

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