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Swimmers 'Towelling Inferno' Protest Over Dublin Bay Water Quality

19th December 2020
The 'SOS - Save Our Sea in Dublin Bay' has received 18,611 signatures for its petition to the EPA The 'SOS - Save Our Sea in Dublin Bay' has received 18,611 signatures for its petition to the EPA Photo: One minute forty

A “giant-size” towel collage has been spread out at Blackrock’s Seapoint shoreline in Dublin Bay on Saturday to highlight the need for action over Dublin Bay water quality.

Open water swimmers suspended hostilities over whether dry robes or towels were more socially acceptable to participate in the peaceful initiative - at a social distance.

SOS Dublin Bay, which organised the gesture, is calling for increased testing of bathing water quality.

It is seeking real-time reporting of results “in recognition of all-year-round bathing which has become more common in Dublin”.

SOS Dublin Bay chairman Gerry Jones said record numbers of people were now swimming in the bay all year round.

He said that “local authorities need to recognise this reality by ensuring that bathing water quality readings are provided on an ongoing basis to the general public”.

He said there should be regular publication of all appropriate public health guidance particularly when the water is polluted.

“Thousands of people are now taking to the waters in Dublin Bay every day, yet we are simultaneously witnessing the appalling spectacle of raw sewage being dumped into the bay at Ringsend after heavy periods of rainfall,” he said.

A scene at the Forty Foot bathing place during Winter 2020A scene at the Forty Foot bathing place at the southern tip of Dublin Bay during Winter 2020

“We can’t put people’s health on hold while we wait for a promised upgrade of the Ringsend sewage treatment plant which won’t happen till at least 2025,” he said.

There are “ creative interim solutions” at to prevent Irish Water dumping sewage into the Liffey estuary and onward into the bay, he said, and SOS Dublin Bay aims to publish several proposals in the new year.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has acknowledged the risks to water quality after periods of heavy rainfall which result in overflow from storm drains and from the Ringsend sewage treatment plant, among other sources.

Rainwater run off at Sandycove Point on Dublin Bay from Afloat Magazine on Vimeo.

However, it says it is awaiting a review of the EU Bathing Water Quality directive before recommending any legislative changes to allow for greater frequency of , and more detailed scope of, testing here.

Under current regulations, local authorities are only required to test bathing water quality once a month between May and September. Some local authorities test more frequently, but results are slow.

The tests under the EU bathing water quality directive are limited to E.coli (EC) and Intestinal enterococci (IE), based on World Health Organisation research.

Dublin Bay Swimmers Call Truce in Dry Robe Wars in Support of a Cleaner Dublin BayDublin Bay swimmers call a truce in Dry Robe wars and lay out their towels in support of a cleaner Dublin Bay  - 18611 is the current number of signatures to the online petition for a cleaner bay Photo: One minute forty

University College Dublin (UCD) microbiologist Prof Wim Meijer explains that most E.coli are harmless.

However, VeroToxigenic E coli strains, contracted from ingesting water contaminated with animal faeces or from undercooked meat or contaminated salads, produce a powerful toxin which can cause “a range of symptoms, from bloody diarrhoea to kidney failure and may cause fatalities”

Prof Dearbháile Morris, director of NUI Galway (NUIG) Ryan Institute’s Centre for One Health, said current testing systems are outdated, as they only look for the total number of e-coli in a 100ml sample and not the detail.

A system for live bathing water monitoring named EU SWIM is at an advance stage, co-ordinated by UCD computer scientist Prof Gregory O’Hare and involving Prof Meijer.

The SOS petition is here

Published in Dublin Bay
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

© Afloat 2020

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