Some bathing spots 'risk infection'
Seven of Ireland's popular bathing spots failed minimum clean water tests leaving swimmers with a 10% risk of picking up a bug, an official report has revealed.
While 103 of the country's top swimming locations were classed as pristine last year, five beaches and one lough failed to hit even the lowest grade on the charts.
Inspectors recorded poor marks for Youghal Front Strand in Cork, Ardmore in Waterford, Duncannon in Wexford, Rush South beach in North Dublin, Clifden and Ballyloughane in Galway and Lilliput on Lough Ennell in Westmeath.
All failed the tests because of sewage pollution, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said.
Among the works being carried out to solve ongoing wastewater contamination are sewage works in Youghal and Clifden, a temporary treatment plant proposed for Duncannon - while effluent disinfection is being improved in Ardmore.
Other efforts include septic tank and dog fouling inspections in Rush and a limit on the storm outflows in Ballyloughane.
The EPA included one new swimming spot in its list of 136 bathing locations for 2014. Tra Inis Oirr on the Aran Islands had been monitored by the local council for several years, but has celebrated its first official year with an excellent grade for pristine quality.
Peter Webster, EPA senior scientific officer, said the agency wants to see more popular bathing spots on its official register of designating swimming locations.
"Ireland has many superb beaches and, while monitoring them all would be quite impractical, the EPA would like to see an increase in the numbers of identified bathing areas," he said.
The EPA also issued advice to maintain standards on beaches and bathing spots - including for people to bring their rubbish home, bag dog mess rather than bury it in sand and lift any leftover food to reduce the attraction of seagulls.
More than 50 beaches, rivers or loughs - used by swimmers but regarded as smaller, less popular or lacking infrastructure - have been undergoing tests for several years and the figures show only five returned a poor grade, adding to Ireland's reputation for clean coasts and waters.
Mr Webster added: "While they do not come under the legal framework of the bathing water regulations, we feel it is important to let the public know about their quality and we would like to see many of them included in the national programme in the future."
The EPA report found:
:: 48 pollution events were notified in 2014;
:: Sewage accounted for 27 of the sources of pollution at closed bathing spots; eight were blamed on agriculture and four put down to urban discharges;
:: 15 of the 136 bathing waters had bathing restrictions slapped on them between March and September last year;
:: Swimming spots had restrictions imposed on a total of 74 days.