#CoastalNotes - More than 97% of Ireland's bathing areas meet the EU's minimum standards for water quality in new figures announced today 2 May - though 21 waters have been stripped of the top ranking.
The latest figures for 2012 were released today in a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whose director general Laura Burke said that the "quality of Ireland's bathing waters remained very high despite remarkably wet summer weather in 2012".
As reported last year on Afloat.ie, water runoff from heavy summer flooding led to elevated levels of E.coli in many coastal areas, causing the temporary closure of beaches in Cork, Galway and North Dublin.
It's this rise in levels of harmful bacteria above mandatory EU safety levels that resulted in the poor performance of some perennial bathing favourites in the 2012 figures, as The Irish Times reports.
The number of beaches meeting the EU's stricter 'good' bathing quality standards fell from 112 in 2011 to 91 waters last year.
EPA senior scientific officer Peter Webster told The Irish Times that the fall "is disappointing but I'm surprised it was not more".
And despite the drop, three local authorities - Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Sligo and Leitrim - managed to achieved 'good' status for all of their designated bathing areas.
The worst performing beaches were Clifden in Galway, Fountainstown in Cork, Ballyheigue in Kerry and Rush in North Dublin, all of which were ranked as 'poor' for water quality.
Remedial water treatment works are planned for Clifden, while it's reported that no cause was found for a single "uncharacteristically high" sample taken from Ballyheigue.