Front shore, Lady's Bay, in Buncrana, again deemed 'poor' due to ‘untreated waste water’

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The front shore in Buncrana, Lady’s Bay, was one of the only beaches in Ireland where the bathing water quality was 'poor' last year.

A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the number of beaches classified as poor across the 26 counties increased from three to five in 2023.

These were Lady’s Bay (Buncrana), Balbriggan Front Strand Beach (Dublin) and Trá na mBan (An Spidéal, Galway), which were also poor in 2022, and Loughshinny and Sandymount beaches in Dublin.

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Lady’s Bay, the EPA stated was impacted by the Buncrana waste water treatment plant, combined stormwater overflows, and surface run-off, which are made worse by heavy rainfall.

Lady's Bay, Buncrana.Lady's Bay, Buncrana.
Lady's Bay, Buncrana.

Its report adds: “The main source of pollution affecting the bathing water is untreated waste water released occasionally from the town’s collecting system.

“Uisce Éireann is progressing a major upgrade of the collecting system to improve its performance and provide more storage for wastewater collected during heavy rainfall.”

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Front shore, Lady's Bay, in Buncrana, one of two beaches deemed 'poor'

The analysis shows water quality at the majority of Ireland’s bathing waters was of a high standard. Seventy-seven per cent of sites have 'excellent’ water quality while ninety-seven per cent meet the minimum standard.

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A notice advising people not to swim at Lady's Bay last year.A notice advising people not to swim at Lady's Bay last year.
A notice advising people not to swim at Lady's Bay last year.

Locally Stroove and Culdaff were deemed to have ‘excellent’ water quality, while Lisfannon and Rathmullan were ‘good’.

Portsalon, Fanad, Ballyhiernan, Downings, Killahoey, Drumnatinny, Magheraroarty, Portarthur, Carrickfinn, Dooey, Naran, Fintra, Murvagh, Rossnowlagh and Bundoran were also given an ‘excellent’ classification.

The water quality at Portnablagh was ‘good’.

Across the 26 counties 114 bathing sites (77 per cent) had excellent water quality, down from 117 in 2022.

The wet weather last summer put pressure on beaches resulting in more beach closures to protect public health.

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Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA, Office of Evidence and Assessment, said: “While our bathing water quality is generally very good overall, there is a need to build climate resilience into the management of bathing waters to reduce the risk of pollution following heavy rainfall.

"This needs action by all sectors including Uisce Éireann, local authorities, and agriculture to reduce overflows from urban waste water systems, and runoff from urban areas and agricultural land.

"While beach closures play an important role in protecting bathers’ health, local authorities need to improve their understanding of the pressures which can impact beaches in the context of changing rainfall patterns.”

The other beaches deemed ‘poor’ were affected by a variety of contaminants.

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Balbriggan – Front Strand Beach, Co. Dublin was impacted by sewage discharges and misconnections; faeces from dogs, birds and other animals and contaminated surface streams flowing through the town.

Loughshinny Beach, Co. Dublin, was impacted by sewage discharges, misconnections from domestic plumbing systems, septic tanks, faeces from dogs, horses and birds, and contaminated streams which flow into the bathing water.

Sandymount Strand, Co. Dublin, was impacted by pollution from contaminated streams, misconnections, sewage discharges and faeces from dogs and birds.

Trá na mBan, An Spidéal, Co. Galway was impacted by the Spiddal sewer network, run-off from agriculture, and discharges from septic tanks.

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Forty-five pollution incidents were reported during 2023, in comparison to 34 in 2022.

Local authorities also put up 228 ‘Prior Warning’ notices at beaches in 2023, to warn swimmers that short-term pollution (lasting no more than a few days) may occur due to heavy rainfall. This was an increase of 42 from 2022.

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