WITH the recent revelations of raw sewage pumped into our seas and reports of sick people across the country, we have delved into the murky world of bathing water quality.
A Dublin swim coach has revealed her concerns for ocean swimmers as she says the water on the east coast has become noticeably dirty.
Open water swim coach Grainne McGrath teaches students through her Splashing to Swimming business.
The Balbriggan resident said: “In the summer I hiked the whole coast so I started in Louth all the way to Balbriggan, Skerries.
“I had a swimmer who was very sick in the hospital. She was on an IV.
“We couldn’t determine which beach it was because she was training a lot and we couldn’t put it on which beach she was on.
“Every now and then they do these tests and I have to keep an eye on the results. They closed a whole beach once.
As a swimming coach, Grainne says she is concerned about what is going on in the water.
“Over the summer and last summer, I noticed the water was getting so dirty,” she added.
“I know some of them don’t even turn on their infrared lights to kill bacteria in the sewage.
“It’s a sure concern. I grew up swimming in the Atlantic, ”she added.
“The water tastes different in the Atlantic than it does in the Irish Sea – I always feel like it’s cooler in the west.”
Despite the fact that swimmers now flock to the beaches all year round, the country still only counts from June 1 to September 15 as a bathing season.
What is even more worrying is that outside this window “pollution testing is not required” and the UV light used to kill germs in the sewage pumped into Irish waters is extinguished.
The Environmental Protection Agency revealed in November how wastewater treatment in 12 cities had failed to meet European standards aimed at protecting our biodiversity and environment.
Even more alarmingly, they recounted how “34 towns and villages release untreated wastewater into the environment every day” because their sewers are not connected to sewage treatment plants.
Our map shows how close these 34 discharge points are to Ireland’s Blue Flag beaches, designated each swimming season.
But in addition to the 34 problem areas, the EPA told us: ‘There are many other areas in Ireland where public sewers are connected to sewage treatment plants, but every now and then some of the raw sewage is collected in sewers flows into rivers. and seas without reaching the treatment plant, for example when emergency safety valves called storm water overflows activate to relieve a sewer of excess flows caused by heavy rainfall.
The environmental watchdog raised concerns over continued delays at Irish Water in addressing the issue in its report on urban wastewater treatment in 2020.
But in the meantime, sea swimmers, including Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, fear they have suffered health problems from repeated failures to clean up coastal waters.
Dublin SOS was formed in 2020 due to the rapid deterioration of water quality in Dublin Bay and on the capital’s beaches.
The gang of swimmers, snorkelers, beachgoers and sailors have since called for changes to the current diet due to harmful germs like e-coli in the water.
Their petition calling on the EPA to “save our sea” has been signed by nearly 22,000 people.
And after speaking with Dublin SOS, Labor TD Ivana Bacik asked the government on October 21 why they had not implemented “promised legislation” which would allow local authorities “to determine the swimming season with the aim of monitor water quality on beaches and bathing areas ”to allow monitoring of water quality throughout the year.
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan agreed it should happen after revealing: “I was swimming in Dublin Bay penultimate weekend and I have an ear infection and part of my mind thinks: are the two related? ” at Dail.
He said: “It is a public health problem. We have a large number of people swimming throughout the year now. ”
But government policies on the bathing season, testing and treatment still haven’t changed.
Peter Whelehan of Dublin SOS told The Star / Mirror he knows people who have lost their hearing, have been admitted to hospital and suffered severe episodes of gastric illness after swimming on the city’s coast.
We would like the UV treatment used to kill bacteria during the bathing season at Ringsend to be used year round.
“On September 15, they deactivated it,” he explained.
“Not only should it not be turned off, but it rains more in autumn and winter so there are more overflows, so the water is dirtier.
“Not everyone stops swimming on September 15th. Any day of the week, any time of the year, you will see people swimming.
“They stop testing and they turn off the UV – we think that’s negligence.”
He also raised concerns about turning off the UV treatment used to kill bacteria during the bathing season at the end of September 15.
Dun Laoghaire man Cian Hyland, 40, says he fell ill twice in 2020 after swimming within forty feet and now avoids it.
The first time he said, “I was sick for about five days and was bedridden for you. It was really bad – I hadn’t had an illness like this in a long time.
“I had a fever and it was like a very powerful gastric bug.
“I got over that and I didn’t swim within 12 meters for a long time, but I went back about three months later, I swam there for five days in a row and on the fifth day I started. to feel bad.
“It was vomiting, diarrhea. It was not as strong but lasted about three weeks. I couldn’t eat properly and lost about three quarters of a stone at the end.
“I have no proof that it came from the sea, but for me it was a coincidence that I went down and got sick the next day.
“People always say not to go swimming within 12 meters after it has rained a lot because all the rainwater from the streets is going through and Ringsend has an overflow.
“I don’t swim there anymore. ”
Irish Water, which in its own words is “responsible for the treatment of wastewater and its safe return to the environment”, admits that “the discharge of raw sewage is an unacceptable practice”.
The EPA report found that only 93% of their 1,000 factories are in compliance.
They blame decades of underinvestment in Ireland’s wastewater infrastructure for the current mess and have said ‘eliminating it’ is their top priority.
And they said it is hoped that plans for 22 additional factories, 14 of which begin construction this year, will see 95% of raw sewage discharges stop by 2025.
Not all factories give their suckers a final UV treatment, but they have said the small number of factories where it is in place meet the requirements of their EPA license, which says it must be turned on during the bathing season. .
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, which oversees Ireland’s regulations on the quality of bathing water, including the bathing season, says they were established in 2008.
“Officials from the Ministry of Housing, local government and heritage are currently examining the most appropriate options to provide safe bathing water during the winter months and to improve the dissemination of information on the quality of bathing water. , especially in the Dublin Bay area, ”a spokesperson said. added.
“Minister Noonan and Minister O’Brien have both met with a number of local interest groups and are committed to developing a solution that will allow flexibility around the swimming season and the protection of those who swim throughout. year round. ”
They also said pollution tests can be carried out at the discretion of local councils and that some in Dublin “monitor the waters outside of the bathing season”.