The discovery of unacceptably high levels of E coli at Grattan Beach will not affect the upcoming Ironman competition, according to organisers and local councillors who have moved to allay fears over the impact of contamination of the water at the city beach.
Routine testing on Monday of this week found slightly elevated levels of E coli in the water, however levels were still within EU standards. Follow-up samples taken by the HSE on Tuesday were found to contain E coli in excess of EU mandatory permitted levels, necessitating the closure of the beach to bathers.
‘Do not swim’ signs have been erected at the beach and will remain in place until the water quality returns to an acceptable standard.
E coli lives in the digestive tract and is tested as it is a reliable indicator of faecal contamination. Grattan Beach is the latest of several beaches around the country to be shut due to elevated levels, believed to be caused by recent heavy rains. EU regulations on bathing water quality recommend that there be fewer than 100 bacteria per 100ml of water, and the water at the beach is generally well within these recommended levels. However the latest tests have found the water currently breaches the far less stringent mandatory levels of 2,000 bacteria per 100ml.
Bathing water at Galway beaches has been tested once a fortnight in recent months. According to acting director of services with Galway City Council Frances Mullarkey, the water must be tested a minimum of five times over the bathing season; the local authority has sampled water at Galway beaches eight times.
A finding of E coli in numbers higher than EU mandatory level triggers the closure of the beach until the water quality return to an acceptable level.
The water will be tested every few days until two consecutive samples return acceptable bacterial counts, and the beach will remain closed to bathers until this happens.
It is understood that a number of swimmers who bathed in the water on Tuesday — on the day the water was tested but before results were available — have suffered no ill effects.
According to Ironman organiser Eoin McCormack, the water quality at Grattan Beach will have no bearing on the swimming leg of the triathlon, which will take place on September 2, because the athletes do not go anywhere near the area.
The 1.2 mile swim takes athletes from Blackrock out into the bay, and they return to Palmer’s Rock, just a short distance away along the Prom.
Cllr Peter Keane said the poor quality was unsurprising given the closure of beaches around the country in recent weeks as a result of heavy rainfall. However, he added, it was important to address the problem as soon as possible.
“We will be using the print and broadcast media to inform the public of what is happening on a daily basis,” he said.
Cllr Niall McNelis, meanwhile, stressed that the results will not affect the Ironman, or the prized Blue Flag status of Silverstrand.