Balbriggan has been dogged with repeated pollution issues in recent years, which often renders the Front Strand closed to swimmers during the swimming season.
Along with many community groups such as SOS, BASS, Dublin Bay SOS and BOWW, Cllr Tony Murphy (Ind for Balbriggan) has repeatedly raised pollution warnings with Fingal County Council which largely are a result of Uisce Eireann (formerly Irish Water) releasing sewage overflows into the sea and negatively impacting Balbriggan Harbour and bathing area.
However, Cllr Murphy notes that finally, there has been some progress made in protecting the sea water in Balbriggan and hopefully, resulting in the popular front beach being designated as an official bathing area, along with the possibility of a tidal bathing pool.
“FCC has done tremendous work over the last number of months,” said Cllr Murphy. “And they and have identified misconnections, that is, misconnected sewerage connections in some areas. Everything has now been corrected or is in the process of being corrected.
“BUT, he added, we still have issues with Uisce Eireann (IW). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives licence to UE and allows them to expel raw sewerage overflow into Balbriggan Harbour when the pumping station is full. This subsequently contaminates our bathing waters.
“The real nub here is that we now have a new sewerage pipe connected to Stamullen, Co Meath with our pumping station in Balbriggan Harbour. This is currently undergoing a capacity upgrade.”
Cllr Murphy says “We will only be able to guarantee safe bathing waters when there is no overflow or leaks allowed into the harbour area. “
“In order to accomplish this, Uisce Eireann needs to invest in engineering infrastructure – that is, a pipe that can sit out past the ebbing tide, in order to accommodate any overflows or outflows. UE must invest in a mechanism or an engineering solution that doesn’t allow any overflows in the bathing waters at Balbriggan.”
He noted that during and post Covid, sea swimming became a major activity, and that Balbriggan’s front strand provides a wonderful, natural amenity. “Following mitigation work that FCC have carried out in recent months, we could have a designated bathing area confirmed in Balbriggan, along with a consultation report already drafted up by FCC regarding a local tidal pool.”
Cllr Murphy submitted a motion at last week’s council meeting: “That the Chief Executive work with all agencies Uisce Eireann, Environmental Protection Agency etc, and employ whatever expertise necessary to deliver a solution to the issues impacting the beach bathing waters in Balbriggan over the last number of years.”
FCC said “In response to deteriorating water quality at Balbriggan Beach, FCC prepared the Balbriggan Beach Management Plan, a plan which identified and proposed actions to manage and address all pressures within the bathing water catchment area which could be impacting on bathing water quality at Front Beach Balbriggan”
The 2023 Balbriggan Beach Management Plan identified the following pressures to be potentially having an effect on bathing water quality at Balbriggan: surface Water streams within the beach catchment, investigation and removal of pollution sources; agriculture run-off/FCC surveys into land spreading practices along with foul water network and pumpstations* checks, animal fouling, bird colonies, testing, etc.
On April 30 last, FCC wrote to the EPA* expressing concern that secondary discharges from the sewer network serving Balbriggan may be having a negative impact Balbriggan Beach. In June, the EPA confirmed to FCC that Uisce Eireann has been advised of Fingal’s concerns and UE responded thereafter that it intended to increase the capacity of the Quay St pump station to cater for additional wastewater load coming on stream from Balbriggan. However, it could not guarantee that there will be no further stormwater overflows at Quay St during the bathing season.
NB, a public meeting to discuss a swimming pool for Balbriggan will be held at the Milestone, commencing 7.30pm on Thursday, November 30. All welcome.
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