Independent Councillor Terry O’Flaherty has demanded answers from The Environmental Protection Agency, after she claimed an analysis of water quality test results showed that Ballyloughane Beach had needlessly suffered six years of swimming bans.
She said that a similar number of poor test results at Grattan Road Beach over several successive years had not brought any repercussions for the Salthill facility.
“What I want to know now is why has there been different rules for Ballyloughane, which effectively saw it closed for swimming from 2014 to 2020, with the sole exception of 2019, while Grattan Road remained open,” she said.
“I’m delighted that swimming will be allowed at Ballyloughane again this year after a series of excellent water quality test results last year — it’s a wonderful beach that is very popular with people living on the east side of the city.
“I am disappointed that the years of swimming bans may not have been necessary, if other beaches can record the same water quality test results and remain open.”
Cllr O’Flaherty said that an analysis of test results over a period of nine years, from 2012 to 2020 inclusive, showed that out of a total of 125 samples taken at Ballyloughane, only nine of them were ‘poor’ — but the majority (89 ) were ‘excellent’, 21 were ‘good’ and six were a ‘sufficient’ standard.
Of the 124 samples taken at Grattan Road over the same period, six results failed to reach an acceptable standard, 91 were ’excellent’, 20 were ‘good’, and six were ‘sufficient’.
“Where’s the big difference there? That’s what I have written to the EPA to ask them to explain and I would be very interested in hearing what they have to say,” added Cllr O’Flaherty.
Different standards applied
She added that in more recent years in particular, it was obvious that different standards applied to the two beaches.
“Both beaches recorded a total of just six ‘poor’ test results between 2015 and 2020, out of a total of 94 weekly tests that were carried out during the summer bathing season.
“Both also had 77 ‘excellent’ results, and of the rest, Ballyloughane actually performed marginally better, with 11 ‘good’ result compared with scene ‘good’ and four ‘sufficient’ outcomes for Grattan Road. But while these returns resulted in the continued closure of the only beach on the east side of the city, for several whole summers, no such action was taken on the other side of town.
“Where is the equality of treatment here? It just doesn’t make sense . You have two beaches on opposite sides of the city, with very similar water quality test results, yet only one is forced to close again and again.
“There was a temporary 48-hour closure at Grattan Road after a storm once but it was never closed for even one summer. Obviously I would never wish that any beach in the city should be closed to swimmers and I’m not suggesting that Grattan Road should have been — but if there wasn’t a swimming ban there, there should not have been one on the east side of the city either.
“I’m all for protecting people from anything that might be bad for them in the water. But when it only happens on rare occasions, as was the case with Ballyloughane, the closure should be just for a few days until any threat to health is lifted,” added Cllr O’Flaherty.
An EPA report last year explained that the main cause of occasional pollution at Ballyloughane beach was a deficiency in the stormwater system due to misconnections from the foul sewer network, with periods of heavy rainfall also seen as a contributory factor.
It added that investigations and improvements had been carried out in recent years, and Galway City Council were progressing with additional investigations of the sewer network, in conjunction with Irish Water, which would help to identify potential sources of pollution.