The Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School (INSS) has expressed its frustration over the second discharge this month of wastewater into Dublin Bay, which has seen new bathing bans issued at several popular swimming spots in the capital.
While the latest notice does not apply to the waters inside Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the INSS says it has still had to activate its ‘unclean water procedure’ as Salthill beach, from where it usually operates, and other locations woke up to an ‘orange slick’ on the shoreline this morning (Tuesday 25 June). This slick has since been confirmed by the local authority as an algal bloom "not directly associated" with the wastewater overflow.
The procedure involves alterations to activities, use of small keelboats instead of dinghies if appropriate, and stringent instructor supervision to ensure people are on rather than in the water.
While afloat, all safety boats must carry hand-sanitising wipes, and children must regularly wash their hands. Shore side, extensive hand-washing, sanitising gels and a focus on good hygiene practises minimises the risk as much as possible.
“On this occasion, we have been relatively lucky to still be able to operate within the harbour,” said Glyn Williams, the school’s communications and marketing manager.
“However, it’s not good enough that we find out about this later in the day,” he added, referring to the initial reports of the latest bathing ban last night. “The treatment plant operator knew they were discharging. Why not tell everyone straight away?”
Chief instructor Kenneth Rumball also noted that the summer sailing season for children is only 12 weeks long, and with the current water notices lasting until at least this Thursday “we now have six days of a short summer lost to this”.
Responding to Irish Water’s claim that the latest overflow ‘happened as it should have happened’, the school said this cuts little ice with the parents of children attending the its courses.
“Parents are equally as exasperated as we are. While all those we spoke with earlier this morning are understanding, they equally feel that Irish Water/the treatment plant operator should get this solved more quickly than they are currently doing.”
Following similar calls by the likes of Green Party Councillor Ossian Smyth, the INSS is urging those with responsibility to immediately progress upgrades for the sewage system at Ringsend Treatment Plant to cope with heavy rainfall — something Irish Water says would require a “huge amount” of investment.
The school also calls for more transparent communication, in real time, if and when discharges are occurring, coupled with pre-emptive warnings and same-day water sampling results.
Commenting on how these water quality issues affect the development of Dun Laoghaire Harbour as a marine leisure destination, Glyn Williams said: “We have to make sure that we get the basics in place before we undertake large scale plans.
“There’s no point in expending time and money when the most basic requirement for water sports is not in place: safe water to operate in.”