SOS Dublin Bay keeps the pressure on

by Rose Barrett
0 comment

Rose Barrett

One of the new names which began to seep into media coverage during the past year was SOS Dublin Bay.

With a significant increase in open sea swimmers during the ongoing pandemic, a group of regular bay users set up the action group to raise awareness of the continued pollution of the bay, which is recognised as an international, unique natural resource.

Repeatedly, Dublin’s local authorities erected warnings advising daily users not to swim, following pollution found in water testing. Among beaches ‘flagged’ temporarily against swimming were: Seapoint, Sandycove, Skerries South Beach, Balbriggan Front Strand, White Rock (Killiney), Burrow Beach, Portrane; Malahide North Strand, Loughshinny Beach, Rush South, The Burrow in Portrane and Rush North Beach, Blackrock, etc. 

Swimming in Merrion Strand was banned in March last year following consistent poor quality water readings over five years (the first Irish beach to have a permanent prohibition notice issued).

However, despite the repeat pollution warnings, Peter Whelehan of SOS Dublin Bay says there has been some progress made as a result of the pressure exerted on politicians and Irish Water by the group.

“SOS Dublin Bay represents over 21,000 people who supported their petition to get something done and their research shows that well over 20% of bay users have become ill after swimming in the bay,” said Mr Whelehan.

“Our pressure has resulted in agreement from the authorities to extend water testing in Dublin Bay beyond September 15, and agreement was secured to have the UV treatment facility at Ringsend water treatment plant left on beyond the normal year end for testing (September 15).”

However, he was critical of the lack of details and specifics of same.  “We have no details in terms of exactly how long the UV treatment facility will be left on so, while we welcome the progress, we’re quite frustrated with the lack of real engagement.”

Govt in breach of EU Directive

“We also believe that Ireland is in breach of the EU 2006 Bathing Water Directive (the Directive) because the state has wrongly defined, in implementing the legislation (SI 79-2008), the bathing season as being between June 1 and September 15,” continued Mr Whelehan.

“We are considering legal action against the state based on this. The “bathing season” is defined in the Directive as “when large numbers of bathers can be expected”. The Directive provides that ‘large numbers’ means, in relation to bathers, a number that the competent authority considers to be large having regard, in particular, to past trends.”

Mr Whelehan pointed out that the popularity of sea swimming has dramatically increased over the past two years owing to the pandemic, and there is a significant increase in beach users outside of the June to September period.

He noted the stated purpose of the Directive is to “aim at a high level of protection, and contribute to pursuing the objectives of preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment and of protecting human health.”

“It has been acknowledged by stakeholders that one of the considerations when looking at extending the bathing season testing includes the reality that poor winter weather may lead to bathing prohibitions … due to increased rain and more overflows from Ringsend treatment plant.” 

SOS Dublin Bay is concerned that water testing should be done all year round and that results are efficiently and promptly posted, alerting swimmers to the possibility of being infected by gastroenteritis, etc.

He called on the relevant authorities to introduce new technology that allows the public to be informed in an efficient and prompt manner on bathing waters, and not just to aim at the minimum standard testing as set down by the Water Bathing Directive for EU member states.

“There is nothing to prohibit a member state going further,” said Mr Whelehan. “Dublin Bay is unique; it was named a UNESCO Biosphere in 2015 and there is almost no comparable European capital city with such a resource.

“To simply apply a European minimum standard, designed to apply to all European bathing locations, is inappropriate in light of the unique importance of Dublin Bay,” he concluded.

Click on link to read more in this weeks Digital Edition

Related Articles