It wasn’t all plain sailing for Galway’s beaches and bathing areas this week as the high of achieving six Blue Flag Awards was dampened by the loss of two.
To rub salt into the wounds, a recent European Commission report branded Atlantic coast beaches in Ireland as being the “dirtiest in the union” with 6.6 per cent failing to meet legally required standards.
The 2010 Blue Flag and Green Coast Awards were presented in a ceremony in Portmarnock, Co Dublin last Monday by Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government John Gormley.
This year, a total of 76 Blue Flags were awarded, a decrease of one in the number awarded in 2009 but the lowest number of awards in 10 years. There were five new Blue Flags awarded, however this was offset by losses at six beaches. Five flags which were lost as a result of water quality falling below the stringent guideline standards were at Spiddal Pier and Traught, Co Galway, as well as Brittas Bay South, Wicklow, and Killala Ross Strand, and Louisburgh, Oldhead, in Mayo. A further flag was lost at Mullaghmore in Sligo as a result of there being no lifeguard for the 2010 season, and unresolved issues relating to livestock.
Heavy rainfall last summer was blamed for much of the overall water quality problems on beaches nationwide. According to Galway County Council the loss of the Blue Flag at Traught and Spiddal Pier was due to a single sampling result which was affected by heavy rainfall and that tests taken since have indicated good water quality.
Galway beaches which were awarded a Blue Flag this year include: Trá An Doilín, An Ceathrú Rua; Loughrea Long Point, An Tra Mhór Coill Rua, Inverin; Aran Cill Mhuirbthe, Cill Ronan; Silverstrand; and Salthill.
A total of 46 Green Coast Awards were awarded across the country with Galway receiving awards for Salthill, Silverstrand, Dog’s Bay in Roundstone, East End in Inisbofin, Trá Inis Oirr, and Dumhach beach.
The Blue Flag is an international award for beach excellence which is operated in Ireland by An Taisce with the support of the Department of the Environment. The award is presented to beaches and marinas which have excellent water quality and which achieve high standrads across a wide range of criteria including water quality, environmental education, and beach management. Introduced in 2008, the Green Coast Awards are given to beaches which have excellent water qaulity but which may be less developed or more rural in nature than Blue Flag beaches.
Meanwhile, a European Commission survey of Atlantic coastal beaches, published last week, showed that nine of the State’s 131 beaches and lake shores, which are designated bathing areas, failed to meet minimum clean-water standards. In Galway, Clifden was singled out as again failing the minimum standards.