BASS stir muddy waters in Balbriggan

by Rose Barrett
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Rose Barrett

BASS, Balbriggan Amenity for Sea Swimming, have really stirred the waters recently with a blistering letter sent to the Senior Parks Superintendent at Fingal County Council, Mayor of Fingal, Our Balbriggan Leadership Group, and elected representatives of Balbriggan (LEA 5).

A four-page document blasting “the lack of investment and interest from Fingal County Council” in Balbriggan and Our Balbriggan “(or ‘Their Balbriggan’, as locals are starting to call it because they choose what Balbriggan wants not the local community).”

BASS accused Fingal Council of “not delivering on what the people they represent want.  The system is either flawed or senior officers are unwilling to put the work into delivering what is needed.” 

Citing the restrictions of the pandemic which ignited a passion for open water activities, Balbriggan became massively popular with swimmers, dippers, body boarders, kite surfers, surfers, rowers, etc.

Listing the events hosted by Our Balbriggan from November 2018 to the Bremore Park public consultation, followed by a small number of ‘poor’ readings in the annual water quality testing at the Front Strand, Balbriggan, BASS asked what preventative measures were taken by FCC or any of the stakeholders to see Balbriggan declared safe for swimming again.

“FCC knew for a number of years that there were issues with the results and that possibly (EPA) would restrict our beach,” stated BASS. In September 2020, Balbriggan’s Front Strand was declared restricted for the following year, 2021 and remains restricted.

“From 2018-2021, there were only four poor results from thirty-six tests performed,” said BASS.  “The 2017 report mentioned river input and harbour activities as likely pollution sources, and we know that the poor result usually occurred in August –what steps did the council take then to prevent further poor readings?”

In response, FCC stated: “Balbriggan has only been classified as a “poor” bathing status since 2021. In August 2020, the water quality was impacted following heavy rains associated with Storm Francis, with water tested at the time exhibiting a very high microbiological result which will influence its classification for the next couple of years.”

FCC noted there was no poor result in 2021 “which is indicative of the actions taken in 2021 having a positive impact on water quality.” The council stated Balbriggan’s pollution issues were possibly linked to drainage misconnections and agricultural run-off during heavy rainfall, along with animal fouling and probable leaks from the foul sewer network.

“We want to provide pristine areas for swimmers and  beachgoers alike in Fingal, and take water testing seriously, to protect both users and the environment.” Water sampling is done fortnightly during the bathing season, alongside an increase in river water quality monitoring.

“The “Advice Not To Swim” notice will remain in place at Balbriggan until a new assessment at the end of this bathing season is carried out by the EPA*.

The council acknowledges there is still work to be done at Balbriggan; it has been ensuring that misconnection and repairs have been made to drains in the harbour area, and conducts inspections of domestic wastewater treatment systems and farms in the catchment area. The council has been working with Irish Water to carry out an action plan for Balbriggan that includes a much-needed upgrade of Quay Street pumping station.

*Regarding the all-season warning currently in place at Front Strand, FCC stated this is “a temporary public health notice due to the ‘poor’ rating by the EPA – it is not related to a current bathing water pollution event, nor is it a ban on swimming nor a closure of the beach.”

Regarding Bremore Park, the council stated there were a number of provisions to the park amenities to benefit all users including sea swimmers, i.e. lighting, access, enhanced parking provision, etc. The provision of outdoor swimming facilities was not part of the Park Development Works. It was then recommended that the council commission a feasibility study for the provision of sea swimming facilities in Balbriggan. No timeframe as yet has been given for the feasibility study.


Our Balbriggan did not respond to Gazette enquiries.

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