Monday 20 January 2020

Liffey Swim green light despite 'poor' water quality

Swimmers take part in 2016
Swimmers take part in 2016

The 100th Liffey Swim will go ahead this morning despite the river's water quality being "exceptionally poor".

Heavy rainfall in Dublin city this week caused sewer debris to seep into the Liffey, prompting Dublin City Council (DCC) to test the water quality in the run-up to the annual event.

In a statement, the council said Irish Water was also made aware of an overflow or discharge of sewage from the Irish Water sewer network.

It said the discharge may have been active for some days before it was rectified, but added that the utility company had told it that the matter had been resolved.

"The results are exceptionally poor, and significantly exceed the maximum permitted levels for designated bathing waters," a council spokesperson said.

"Due to the fact that the annual Liffey Swim is scheduled to take place [today], 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."

The spokesperson added that the organisers decide whether the annual swim goes ahead.

"Given the long history of this event, Dublin City Council regrets that the water quality in the Liffey would appear to have been badly impacted by this unforeseeable event," the statement read.

Brian Nolan, chair of Leinster Open Sea's Liffey Swim, told the Herald that following a risk assessment, a decision was made to allow the swim to go-ahead.

The HSE offered a list of precautions swimmers should take to reduce the risk of contracting illness while taking part.

  • 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.
  • Wash your hands before handling food.
  • Shower after swimming.

The HSE also advised swimmers to seek medical advice if they fall ill.

A spokesperson for Irish Water said that a Fingal County Council crew was able to stop the overflow yesterday, adding: "The overflow was by a blocked sewer. A storm water overflow is a normal measure to prevent the sewer network backing up."

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