Friday, May 03, 2013

LAST summer’s heavy rain is being blamed for Fountainstown beach  failing minimum water quality standards.
Unacceptably high levels of
E. Coli were found in the bathing water at the popular Cork beach,  giving it a status of ‘poor’ by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A further eight Cork beaches met the mandatory standards for E. Coli but failed the guide levels giving  them a ‘sufficient’ status. Four Cork beaches reached the highest standard of ‘good’.
E. Coli bacteria generally enters the water through run-off from nearby land and fields which contain small amounts of faeces,  either from the spreading of manure or from wastewater treatment systems and overflows.
Fountainstown was one of only four beaches in Ireland to receive a ‘poor’ status.
The eight Cork beaches to reach ‘sufficient’ status were: Barleycove, Claycastle in Youghal, Coolmaine, Garretstown, Garryvoe, Redbarn, Tragumna and the Front Beach in Youghal.
Garrylucas, Inchydoney, Owenahincha and the Warren achieved ‘good’ status.
According to the EPA report,  Fountainstown suffered from episodic but persistent pollution throughout the summer and failed to meet the minimum standards.
Peter Webster, Senior Scientific Officer with the EPA,  said: “The drop in the numbers of waters achieving ‘good’ status is disappointing but is clearly linked to weather patterns and is similar to problems experienced in other countries.”
Many areas of Ireland experienced two to three times their expected summer rainfall last year.
High levels of rain in August caused an increase of run-off of slurry from farmland and resulted in the closure of seven beaches for a number of days.
Out of 107 days in the May-to-September bathing season,  it rained for 80, the EPA said, with beaches in Cork and Kerry suffering the worst from Atlantic weather systems.
Mr Webster said it is less of a problem on Mediterranean beaches because the sun kills off pollution caused by faeces.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and we barely saw it last year,” he said.
Under the EPA rules there is a 5% risk of picking up an illness or infection if you swim in water failing to meet the mandatory standards. don’t cut this
“But you are probably at greater risk of catching a cold on a bus on the way,” Mr Webster said.
The EPA scientist said he does not expect 2013 weather  to be as bad as last year. don’t cut this
Laura Burke, EPA Director General, said: “The quality of Irish bathing waters remains very high despite remarkably wet summer weather in 2012.  Irish bathing waters continue to be among the best in northern Europe.
“While compliance with current bathing water quality standards is high, new stricter standards will take effect from 2014.  These standards will place greater emphasis on developing systems for the management of bathing waters and on notifying the public about bathing water quality.
“ We hope that visitors to Irish beaches can enjoy their experience knowing that our waters are of a high standard and that their health is and the environment are being protected.”
A spokesperson for Cork County Council said the extremely wet weather last year meant Fountainstown was unable to meet the very high EU standards on water quality.

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