Two freshwater beaches in Westmeath have dropped in water quality over the past year, with one being granted ‘poor’ status.
That’s according to the latest report on the quality of bathing water in Ireland from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ).
The freshwater beach at Lilliput, Lough Ennel plummeted from ‘good’ status in 2007 to ‘poor’ in 2008. In fact, up until this most recent ranking, the popular bathing area had consistently achieved ‘good’ status since 2003.
Portnashangan at Lough Owel was found to be of ‘sufficient’ standard in 2008, also a step down from its ‘good’ rating of the previous year. The Cut at Lough Lene was the only area in the county to retain its ‘good’ status.
The 2008 results mark the first year since reporting began in 1992 that any freshwater bathing areas were described as ‘poor’; up until 2008 all consistently achieved at least ‘sufficient’ status, meaning they met the mandatory EU standard for faecal coliforms.
The three inland bathing areas in Westmeath were among nine designated freshwater bathing areas monitored in Ireland during the 2008 season. From 2007 to 2008, the proportion of freshwater bathing areas achieving ‘sufficient’ water quality status decreased significantly by 33 per cent.
A further six seawater bathing areas on Ireland’s coasts failed to achieve ‘sufficient’ water quality status in 2008, the highest number of bathing waters ever classified as ‘poor’.
The predominant factor affecting water quality, according to the report, is the higher than usual rainfall which occurred during the summer periods of 2008. The high rainfall resulted in runoff of polluting matter from fields and farmyards, as well as the triggering of combined sewer overflows.
The EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement is to contact Westmeath County Council in relation to the bathing areas which failed the EU mandatory standards, and to ascertain the causes of the failure and the measures being taken to address the issues.
However, the report stressed that the quality of water at Ireland’s designated bathing areas has remained high, with the percentage of bathing areas of ‘sufficient’ water quality stable at between 92 and 99 per cent.