Irish Water, Ireland’s national water utility responsible for providing and developing water and wastewater services throughout Ireland, today welcomed the publication of the EPA Bathing Water Quality Report 2015 which shows significant improvements in ratings for bathing waters around Ireland as a result of ongoing investment in wastewater infrastructure by the Utility. By the end of 2016, Irish Water will have invested approximately €650 million in upgrading wastewater infrastructure, a significant portion of which is already having a direct positive impact on the quality of Ireland’s bathing waters.

The EPA Bathing Water Quality Report shows that of the seven bathing water areas rated as ‘Poor’ last year two have had their ratings upgraded in areas where Irish Water has carried out significant works while a further four have showed improvements in test samples taken in 2015. The work carried out by Irish Water in many instances related to sewage discharges where the infrastructure had been inadequate to properly treat wastewater.

Bathing water quality can also be affected by diluted sewage discharge from overflows in wet weather and contaminated agricultural and other catchment runoff.

Commenting on the report, Michael Tinsley, Wastewater Capital Lead at Irish Water said, ‘The EPA’s Bathing Water Quality Report 2015 shows significant improvements in bathing water areas around the country. These improvements in many cases are associated with works carried out on wastewater infrastructure by Irish Water. However, we have a long way to go as Irish Water continues to focus on addressing the issue of 44 towns where there is no wastewater treatment at all.’

 ‘Irish Water will continue with urgent upgrades to our wastewater infrastructure to bring bathing waters impacted by urban waste water to the required standard. Irish bathing waters continue to be among the best in northern Europe and maintaining these high quality standards is very much dependent on the successful operation and maintenance of wastewater infrastructure around our coasts by Irish Water and ensuring the long term capacity of these plants is secured.’

While Irish Water will continue to invest to upgrade and maintain our infrastructure and treatment plants extreme weather events will occasionally result in overflows from our sewer networks. It is therefore of vital importance that Local Authorities use the mechanisms available to them to issue appropriate warnings to bathers and bathing areas on the EPA’s ‘Splash’ website, when such weather events are forecast.  Such a proactive approach will result in fewer failures of bathing areas due to abnormal future weather events.

Of the seven bathing water areas rated as poor in the 2014 Bathing Water Quality Report the following improvements have been made and are recorded in the 2015 Report:

Ardmore Co. Waterford

Ardmore was upgraded from ‘Poor’ to ‘Sufficient’ status following a strategic investment by Irish Water to upgrade the temporary disinfection dosing systems. This upgrade included the installation of alarms and communication systems which lead to an immediate improvement in the quality of Bathing Waters. These measures were undertaken prior to completion of a new wastewater treatment plant in Ardmore, which was commissioned in late 2015.  It is anticipated that the improved effluent quality form this new plant will result in further improvements in the bathing water quality status for Ardmore.  

The works carried out in Ardmore were part of the larger Waterford Grouped Towns & Villages Sewerage Scheme project which will provide foul and surface water collection systems as well as wastewater treatment facilities at seven towns and villages in Waterford including Ardmore, Ballyduff/kilmeadan, Cappoquin, Dunmore East, Kilmacthomas, Stradbally and Tallow Ballyduff/Kilmeaden. Total investment in this project is approximately €23 million.

Clifden. Co. Galway

Irish Water invested approximately €7.2 million in an extensive sewer network upgrade and the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant at Clifden, which became operational in September 2015 (post bathing season). This work is expected to significantly improve bathing water quality and to date has resulted in Clifden being classified as ‘Changes’ status. This means that works which have been done prior to the bathing season are likely to lead to a significant improvement in water quality of the ‘Poor’ bathing water during the next bathing season.

Ballyloughane, Co. Galway

Ballyloughane showed a noticeable improvement in water quality in 2015 however it is still classified as ‘Poor’ due to samples tested during the 2013 and 2014 bathing season. Irish Water carried out surveys in 2015 to identify and correct misconnections to surface water drainage systems and a programme of work to undertake a detailed examination of the Merlin Park sewers is planned to be complete by Q3 of 2017.

Duncannon, Co Wexford

Bathing water quality at Duncannon was significantly better in 2015 than in previous years. Of the 16 samples taken in 2015, 14 were classified as ‘excellent’ and 2 were classified as ‘good’. Plans by Irish Water to install a temporary package plant at Duncannon in 2015, cannot be completed due to a lack of a suitable location. Irish Water is currently developing plans for a new wastewater treatment plant

Rush South Beach

While bathing water quality at Rush is still classified as ‘Poor’ in the 2015 report, all of the samples taken during 2015 exceeded the minimum bathing water quality standard with the majority of samples taken being classified as ‘Excellent’  (9 samples - 7 ‘Excellent’, 1 ‘Good’ and 1 ‘Sufficient’).

In February 2016, Irish Water announced a €7.3 million investment in wastewater infrastructure in Rush benefitting South Beach, involving construction of extensive pipelines and a new pumping station. Contracts are expected to be begin in late 2016 and will take 2 years to complete.

Youghal Front Strand, Co. Cork

Water quality at Youghal Front Strand showed significant improvement in 2015 compared to previous years. It is still classified as ‘Poor’ however due to water quality sampling failures during previous bathing seasons. Of the 11 samples taken in 2015, 9 were classified as ‘Excellent’ and 2 as ‘Good’. Irish Water is carrying out ongoing upgrades to the sewerage network in Youghal and  and significant investment has been committed to the development of a new wastewater treatment plant.Irish Water is progressing this project with the aim of delivering the new plant at the earliest possible date.

Lilliput, Lough Ennel, Co. Westmeath

The waste water treatment plant at Lilliput is not owned by Irish Water. It is owned and operated by Westmeath County Council as part of an Adventure Centre also owned by Westmeath County Council. Poor bathing water quality at Lilliput is associated with discharge from this Waste Water Treatment plant. Irish Water has assisted Westmeath County Council by removing all  wastewaters from the small treatment plant by tanker to Irish Water’s treatment plant at Mullingar, leading to the bathing area being reclassified from a ‘Poor’ to ‘Changes’ Status. This status means that work has been done prior to the bathing season which is likely to lead to an improvement in the water quality of the ‘Poor’ bathing water during the next bathing season.  

Two additional Bathing Water regions have been classified as ‘Poor’ in the 2015 report:

Loughshinny, Co. Dublin

Loughshinny is classified as ‘Poor’ primarily due to extreme weather events during 2015. All samples taken during the 2015 bathing season met the minimum bathing water quality standard, with six of the nine samples classified as ‘excellent’ (9 Samples – 6 ‘excellent’, 1 ‘good’, 2 ‘sufficient’). To help improve the bathing water in the area, Irish Water plans to decommission the existing septic tank at Loughshinny and pump the waste water to the existing Barnageeragh Wastewater Treatment Plant near Skerries.  This work is planned as part of two separate projects that are currently at detailed design stage. Tenders will be sought in 2016 and should begin in 2017 taking approximately 12 months to complete with commissioning expected to be completed in early 2018.

Merrion Strand, Dublin

Merrion Strand, due to its urban location is very prone to the impacts of urban run-off, wastewater discharges and surface water contamination. As a result the bathing water quality failure at Merrion Strand has not yet been identified. Irish Water is working closely with Dublin City Council to assist with the surveying of sewer network in the area to establish the cause of the contamination.

Irish Water has also worked with Dublin City Council to implement automatic warning signs linked to the Ailesbury Pumping Station that will warn the public in the event of any future wastewater overflow to Merrion Strand.

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