North County Leader

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Beaches Must Be Prioritised

Rush BeachRush Beach

The news that two beaches in the North County, out of a total of three in Dublin and six nationwide, have failed to meet strict EU water quality standards, will be seen as a major blow to tourism in the region.
Rush South Beach and Loughshinny Beach have been classified as ‘Poor Status’ and comes at a time when Fingal County Council have put in sterling work recently to promote tourism in the county. Festivals such as Flavours of Fingal and the excellent Oktoberfest at Swords Castle, as well as the recent St Patrick’s Day parades across the county, have brought visitors flocking to the North County.
This news could not come at a more inopportune time, and the local authority are anxious to take immediate action to tackle this problem.
Local councillors, JP Browne (FG), Barry Martin (PBP) and Brian Dennehy (FF) are all very concerned about the water quality problems in the area.
JP Browne said, “Obviously it is very disappointing to hear the news of the
poor water quality, not just for Rush and Loughshinny, but for the whole of the North County.
I grew up beside the sea and am fully aware of how much a clean
beach means to a community. Fingal County Council have been working hard to increase tourism within the county and have held, and supported, many local events.”
“Coastal towns such as Rush, Loughshinny, Skerries, Balbriggan and Malahide have so much to offer and it is important that we all do whatever we can to improve the situation. The EPA have stated that there has been an improvement with the water quality in Rush and I am aware that there is a schedule of works in place to keep these improvements going. I would love to see more blue flags coming back to the North County,” he said.
Cllr Barry Martin (PBP) told the County Leader, “It’s not surprising that the results are very disappointing. We’re in the same situation as last year. We need to get connected to Portrane Wastewater facility and the frustrating thing is that there’s a delay in the tendering process for the project. The water is not always bad here and increased monitoring would mean that the summer season would not be a complete right-off. This would give us feedback quickly, meaning beaches would not be closed for the whole summer. The County Council and the EPA could work together on this. The project for Portrane is due in 2018, and in the meantime, sewage is being pumped into the sea,” he said. A Council spokesperson told the County Leader, “The classification of ‘Poor Status’ for Rush South Beach and Loughshinny Beach bathing waters is an indication that there are occasional intermittent pollution events at these locations.”
“In the case of Loughshinny, a once-off event in 2014 following extremely heavy rainfall has resulted in the dataset for the period tipping over into a ‘Poor’ classification. It should be noted that the ‘Poor’ classification is based on 4 years (2012 to 2015) of water quality monitoring data. Generally the monitored water quality at both locations in previous bathing seasons is above standard. Advisory Warning Notices will be put in place at both locations for the 2016 bathing season but these notices are not intended to ban swimmers from swimming there.”
“Fingal County Council in consultation with Irish Water and the EPA, have developed management plans for both Rush South Beach and Loughshinny Beach bathing waters. The plans set out short and long term measures to improve the water quality at both locations. Summaries of both plans and current water quality for all Fingal’s identified bathing waters are available on the national bathing water information website,” the statement concluded. An EPA Senior Scientific Officer said, “Ireland has many lovely beaches with excellent water quality. Disappointingly, bathing waters at Loughshinny were newly classified as ‘Poor’ in 2015 In the case of Loughshinny, a single sample taken in 2014 after very heavy rainfall coupled with slightly poorer quality in 2015 caused it to fail the standard.”
Under the Bathing Water Regulations, local authorities are required to put in place notifications for the entire bathing season advising the public against bathing which could include a bathing prohibition if a serious pollution incident occurs.
The County Leader contacted Irish Water about the situation and they said, “Irish Water, is investing €7.3 million in the wastewater infrastructure in Rush and in particular at South Beach, which is one of seven beaches nationally that was rated ‘poor’ in an EPA Bathing Water Quality Report last year.”
“We were unable to achieve agreement with all landowners. To progress the project, it is essential for Irish Water to acquire the necessary lands using compulsory purchase orders. This significant investment will provide a new system to collect and transfer wastewater from existing outfalls and overflows to the foreshore and onwards to the new wastewater treatment plant at Portrane. This investment will significantly improve the bathing water quality at South Beach in Rush.
To progress this essential project, Irish Water has been liaising closely with residents in the area to acquire wayleaves and land for the construction of the infrastructure needed. As this scheme is vital to ensure that wastewater is collected and transferred to the new wastewater treatment plant in Portrane, Irish Water will now acquire some of the land need to carry out this work using compulsory purchase orders.
“A contract to begin the project in Rush which involves constructing extensive pipelines and new pumping stations, is expected to be awarded shortly with work commencing in quarter three of this year. Construction on the project is expected to take two years to complete,” the statement concluded.
Cllr Brian Dennehy (FF) said, “Annoyingly, the residents of Rush along with our visitors to the town will have to endure a second year where our beaches are closed off for bathing during the summer season.
Sadly where the beaches are usually a huge attraction and popular amenity for residents and visitors alike, the usage of the beaches like last year, I have no doubt will again drop off dramatically.
The current intolerable situation was totally preventable had the Rush sewage network scheme, of which phase one has already been completed and stopped alongside the Millbank in summer 2012 continued as originally planned. The following three years that the scheme was left parked are now the source of the beaches in Rush being deemed unsuitable for bathing.”
“The tendering process and accessing the way-leaves required for the route are both currently at a critical stage to restart the project if commencement in quarter three of this year as planned is to happen. I am calling on Fingal County Council to prioritise the project and commence daily, if not weekly contact with Irish Water to keep the pressure on the project till completion and avoid any potential needless delays.” “The residents of Rush have already been badly let down with the three year delay on the project commencing and at a minimum, all resources available to restart and complete the project as soon as possible need to be utilised with immediate effect,” he concluded.