Clare County Council, on the advice of the HSE, announced on Friday (20 July) that bathing at Lahinch, Kilkee and Spanish Point was prohibited after the results of routine water samples taken at the bathing areas on Wednesday (18 July) showed elevated levels of bacteria in the water. The prohibition was lifted on Saturday afternoon (21 July) after the preliminary results of further water tests carried out on during the previous day showed a dramatic improvement in water quality levels.
A Council spokesperson said: “Water samples are routinely taken at Clare’s 15 public bathing areas once every fortnight. Analysis of three water samples, namely the samples taken from Kilkee, Lahinch and Spanish Point, showed an elevated level of bacteria in the water. The results of all other water samples taken last Wednesday did not show up a similar deterioration in the water quality. While the level of bacteria detected in the water at Kilkee, Lahinch and Spanish Point remained at or near the national limit values/EU mandatory water quality values for e-coli, the HSE advised that the public health risk of same merited the temporary closure of the three bathing areas. This decision was taken in light of the sharp increase in bacteria levels in the water compared to previous test results.”
“The excessive rainfall in recent weeks was a major contributory factor to the detection of e-coli in the water. Lahinch, Kilkee and Spanish Point beaches are each located in Bays, unlike other bathing areas along the west coast of Clare. As a result, the runoff from land surrounding these beaches became concentrated in enclosed bodies of water resulting in the greater concentration of bacteria levels. The results of water samples taken at beaches which are located at less enclosed locations along the coast did not show such elevated levels. Such a scenario had been preceded earlier this month in County Kerry where elevated levels of bacteria were discovered in water samples taken at three beaches, each located in sheltered bodies of water.”
Meanwhile, in response to a claim made by Michael Vaughan, the President of the Irish Hotel’s Federation that the sewerage infrastructure in Lahinch could be responsible for the pollution, the Council said: “The effluent from the wastewater treatment plant in Lahinch has been consistently within the permitted limits for the three main parameters for measuring the discharge of effluent from treatment plants, namely Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and suspended solids, and the plant has capacity to treat the existing town including increased population during holiday periods. Neither have there been any untreated overflows from the network during the period in which the water samples resulting in exceedances of the Blue Flag limits were taken at Lahinch beach.”
“The recommendation to prohibit swimming at the beaches was based on the advice of the HSE and as a result the Council, as the management authority for Clare’s public bathing areas, considered the safeguarding of public health to be its primary concern. On receipt of the advice of the HSE on Friday, the Council immediately instructed lifeguards at the affect locations to erect red flags and public notices notifying the public that swimming was prohibited. In accordance with An Taisce’s Blue Flag programme, the Blue Flags were removed at Lahinch and Kilkee until such time as the water quality improved. Furthermore, the Council launched a comprehensive media campaign on Friday to inform the public. All local elected representatives were also notified immediately of the closure.”
“Staff from the Council’s Environment section, in consultation with the HSE, are continuing to carry out further water quality tests at Clare’s beaches. We would like to reassure the public that it is safe to swim and that there has been no increase in bacteria levels since Saturday.”
“Clare County Council would like to assure the public that public health is our primary concern, as evidenced by our action on Friday. Clare County Council will take all necessary measures to ensure that the public continue to enjoy our magnificent beaches safe in the knowledge that any threat to their health will be dealt with expeditiously.”
“Clare County Council would like to thank the public for their understanding and cooperation. The local authority also acknowledges the valuable role played by the media in promoting the public health notices.”