Fingal Council Addresses Balbriggan Sea Water Quality Concerns
Council meets with councillors and citizens to discuss issues at Front Strand in Balbriggan ahead of new bathing season
n response to the recent announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding an all-season bathing advisory for Front Strand Beach in Balbriggan and the occasional poor-quality bathing water experienced last year, Fingal County Council has taken proactive measures to address the concerns. Officials from the council met with local councillors and concerned citizens to discuss the issues faced and find effective solutions.
To assist the public in understanding the implications of the all-season advisory notice, the council has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions. The notice, issued by the EPA, aims to inform the public of potential health risks associated with swimming in the designated bathing area classified as 'Poor' in terms of water quality. It is important to note that this advisory is not a ban on swimming or a closure of the beach. The council advises residents and visitors to check the up-to-date water quality information for all beaches throughout the bathing season at www.beaches.ie.
During the meeting held in Balbriggan, the council presented a comprehensive plan to address various issues affecting sea water quality in the area. These challenges include urban waste water, dog fouling, water pollution from oil leaks in the harbor, and the impact of heavy rainfall on bathing water quality. The council is also implementing its Balbriggan Beach Plan to tackle these issues effectively.
Reviewing the results of water quality testing conducted during the 2022 bathing season, the council confirmed that the majority of samples taken from Balbriggan Designated Bathing Waters showed Excellent (55%) or Good (11%) water quality. However, there were instances (33%) when the bathing water quality was found to be poor, leading to the issuance of 'Do Not Swim' notices following consultation with the Health Service Executive (HSE). These incidents were attributed to a foul sewer misconnection and stormwater overflow due to heavy rainfall.
To address these misconnections and other waste water issues, the council collaborated with Irish Water to conduct extensive monitoring and investigations along the River Bracken, which flows into the area. This involved in-channel river walks and dye testing, leading to the discovery of a misconnected pipe within a complex network connecting several buildings. The issue was subsequently rectified.
Following the meeting, David Storey, Director of Environment Climate Action and Active Travel at Fingal County Council, expressed satisfaction with the progress made, stating, "It was a good meeting, and we are happy to continue working with these groups to achieve a solution to the water quality issues in Balbriggan." He emphasized the importance of explaining the EU Bathing Water classification system and the process of placing swim notices, highlighting that the EU assesses bathing waters based on results obtained over a four-year period.
It should be noted that the current classification system can sometimes lead to an anomaly in the classification of a designated bathing area. Despite a bathing area consistently being classified as Excellent or Good in the majority of samples, it can still receive a Poor status due to a small number of high bacterial sample results over the four-year period. Consequently, an all-season bathing advisory remains in place until the EPA removes it.
Despite the swimming advisory in place last year, Balbriggan beach remained open with lifeguards on duty throughout the bathing season, and several events and festivals were held along the beachfront.
As summer approaches, Fingal County Council urges all beachgoers to act responsibly by not littering and to pick up after their pets. The council emphasizes that dog waste can negatively impact water quality and pose severe health risks to other beachgoers.
Swimmers are advised to check www.beaches.ie for the latest water quality information before visiting their local bathing site.
Following the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announcement of an all-season bathing advisory for Front Strand Beach in Balbriggan and the poor-quality bathing water experienced at times last year, officials from Fingal County Council have met with local councillors and several groups of concerned citizens to discuss the issues faced.
The Council has also prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions to assist people in understanding the meaning of an all-season advisory notice. This is a public health notice advising of the potential risk of illness due to the EPA’s classification of the bathing water as ‘Poor’. It is not a ban on swimming or a closure of the beach. The up-to-date water quality for all beaches throughout the bathing season is available at www.beaches.ie
At this week’s meeting in Balbriggan, the Council outlined steps it has taken to help tackle problems that include urban waste water, dog fouling, water pollution from oil leaks in the harbour, and the challenges caused by heavy rain on the town’s bathing water quality. It is also implementing its Balbriggan Beach Plan.
Discussing the results, which led to a number of Prohibition Do Not Swim Notices being issued throughout the 2022 bathing season, the Council confirmed that it had tested Balbriggan Designated Bathing Waters on nine scheduled sampling dates with the majority of samples tested found to be of Excellent (55%) or Good (11%) water quality.
Unfortunately, bathing water quality at the beach was also found to be of poor quality on three occasions (33%). This was attributed to a foul sewer misconnection and a stormwater overflow due to heavy rainfall. These incidents resulted in ‘Do Not Swim’ notices being erected following consultation with the HSE.
To ensure progress was made to address misconnections and other waste water issues, the Council, in conjunction with Irish Water, undertook extensive monitoring and conducted investigations across the year to find any visible source of pollution along the River Bracken which flows into the area. This included in-channel river walks and dye testing which did find an issue. On the back of this, further investigations of a complicated pipe network connecting several buildings were undertaken and led to the discovery of a misconnected pipe which was subsequently rectified.
Following the meeting this week, Fingal County Council’s Director of Environment Climate Action and Active Travel, David Storey, said: “It was a good meeting and we are happy to continue working with these groups to achieve a solution to the water quality issues in Balbriggan.
“It was important that we took the time to explain how the EU Bathing Water classification of designated bathing areas works and how the placement of the swim notices is done as part of that process. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one year scenario as the EU classifies bathing waters according to water quality monitoring results attained over a four year period.”
The current classification system can occasionally create an anomaly in the classification of a designated bathing area. Even when a designated bathing area is, on the majority of sampling occasions, deemed to be of Excellent or Good status it can be classified as being of Poor status due to a small number of high bacterial sample results taken over a four-year period. This results in an all-season bathing advisory which remains in place until it is removed by the EPA.
Despite the swimming advisory being place last year, Balbriggan beach remained open with lifeguards in place across the bathing season and a number of events and festivals were held along the beachfront.
As summer approaches, Fingal County Council wants to remind all beach goers to act responsibly by not leaving litter scattered around for someone else to clean up. It also reminds dog owners to ensure they only leave paw prints in the sand and to pick up after their pets.
“Nobody wants to deal with somebody else’s dog poo, it can impact on water quality and also comes with severe health implications for other beach goers.” Mr Storey said.
Swimmers are advised to always check www.beaches.ie for the latest water quality information before visiting their local bathing site.