While almost 80% of our bathing water was classed as excellent in 2022, a wave of swimming bans have hit beaches across the country in recent years due to water quality issues linked to pollution problems and our changing climate.
This investigation was part-funded through crowdfunding (€1,690 of the proposed €2,600). With sea swimming never being more popular but the risk of pollution also on the rise, we decided to go ahead with the project with significant support from our investigative fund.
In total, 34 pollution incidents were reported to EPA during 2022. In recent years, pollution from sewage after heavy rain caused problems across popular beaches in Clare and Wexford, including Lahinch and Duncannon, as well as swimming spots in the capital.
Experts have identified persistent problems due to overflows from wastewater systems, as well as overflowing sewers and pump stations during rainfall and storms, as key concerns predicted to get worse due to climate change. On top of that, bathing water is only tested in the lead up to and during the officially designated bathing season which is from 1 June to the 15 September.
Another issue is the piping of untreated sewage directly into the environment, with untreated waste from over 30 towns and villages discharged every day.
The problem is further compounded by recent findings of bowel superbugs off beaches near Spiddal by NUI Galway scientists, with the university examining the potential exposure of swimmers and surfers to these antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We will analyse the latest EPA data to identify towns and villages with the worst bathing water across the country and examine the key causes and impact on public health, tourism, and water-based businesses.
We will look into what Uisce Éireann (formerly Irish Water) and local authorities are doing to tackle problems of wastewater and to minimise discharges across the country.
We will speak to scientists and academics about the dangers posed to human health and the environment by the problem and what needs to be done to protect swimmers, surfers and seafarers.
If you want to make a contribution to help this investigation happen, click the 'Fund This Proposal' button. Noteworthy investigations are sourced from and crowdfunded by the public.