herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

'Orange water is not sewage', says council amid fury over beach closures

Surveying the polluted water at Sandycove Beach as an Irish heatwave is expected
Surveying the polluted water at Sandycove Beach as an Irish heatwave is expected

Irish Water has come under pressure to explain how sewage has closed some of Dublin's most popular beaches for the second time this month.

It comes as authorities sought to reassure the public that strange orange-coloured water along one closed beach is not raw sewage but naturally occurring algae.

Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said yesterday it carried out tests on water at Sandycove, which showed it is not sewage but a non-toxic micro-alga.

Sandycove was one of a string of beaches along the coast which was closed on Monday following overflows from wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations after heavy rain.

Swimming has been banned until further notice at Sandycove, along with Seapoint, the Forty Foot and Dollymount Strand.

Meanwhile, restrictions on swimming have been placed on Portmarnock's Velvet Strand.

Swimming has been banned for the entire summer season at Sandymount Strand, Merrion Strand and is also restricted at Portrane's Brook Beach.

Fianna Fail's Dublin spokesman John Lahart, said the fact pollution has occurred along several beaches for a second time this month means Irish Water must provide an urgent explanation to Dubliners.

"This would be bothersome for locals at any time of the year but the fact it's June underscores the nuisance that leaks from the [Ringsend] plant cause," Mr Lahart said.

Tourism

"There is also the potential for a knock-on effect on tourism and the local economy given we are due some warm, summery weather later this week and people tend to flock to the seaside."

Some swimmers including Christopher Grey from Dun Laoghaire ignore the Do Not Swim signs posted at The Forty Foot
Some swimmers including Christopher Grey from Dun Laoghaire ignore the Do Not Swim signs posted at The Forty Foot

Mr Lahart said while a "certain degree" of discharge cannot be avoided due to the overflow caused by the heavy rain, he did not believe this level of disruption was ever envisaged.

"Irish Water must thoroughly explain how and why sewage pollution into our sea has become so commonplace," he added.

Water samples from the affected beaches were taken on Monday and the results are due back on tomorrow.

Locals are said to be "understandably furious" about the sewage pollution.

"I have swam every day for the last four years but I have never seen it this bad before," Sandycove resident Harriet Donnelly said.

"There were people swimming there this morning but they had their mouths shut and they were very quick.

"I don't think many people knew about the warning. I saw a group of school children on the coast playing in the rockpools and had to go over and tell them about the warning.

"People are understandably furious, if [Irish Water] know it is going to rain heavily and that the sewer can't take it, they should let people know before it happens."

A spokesperson for Irish Water told the Herald it regrets the impact the beach closures have had but hopes the €400m upgrade to the Ringsend plant will reduce the number of overflows.

"The yellow weather warning rain impacted a number of pumping stations affecting bathing waters around Dun Laoghaire," they said.

"These [bathing prohibition] notices will remain in place pending testing of the bathing water. Irish Water regrets the impact this may have on beach users."

Storm

"In order to treat the increasing volumes of wastewater arriving at the plant to the required standard and capacity, Irish Water is investing over €400m in the staged upgrading of Ringsend Wastewater Treatment Plant to allow the wastewater of an additional 400,000 population equivalent.

"Storm water overflows are designed and operated in line with international best practice in order to safeguard public health.

"Without a storm water overflow, raw sewage could back up in the network during heavy rainfall and could flood homes and businesses.

"In extreme weather, storm water overflows will still happen.

"However, the current upgrade of Ringsend means that the capacity will be increased and these incidents will be fewer but will not be eliminated."

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