EPA rates Lilliput bathing water quality 'poor' for third year in row

Bathing waters at Portnashangan and The Cut rated 'excellent'

The EPA has rated the bathing water quality at Lilliput as “poor” for the third consecutive year with swimming prohibited for the 2021 bathing water season.

The popular Lough Ennell bathing area is one of only four locations across the country where the water quality fails to meet the minimum standard under bathing water regulations, according to the EPA's Bathing Water Quality in Ireland Report 2020. The agency also rated the bathing waters “poor” at Lilliput in their reports for 2018 and 2019.

The bathing waters at the two other local swimming sites featured in the report, The Cut at Lough Lene and Portnashangan at Lough Owel, have been rated “excellent” for the seventh successive year.

In the report, the EPA says that investigations have found “the main source of pollution affecting the bathing water is diffuse agriculture”. Septic tank discharges and birds are also “potential, but less likely” sources, the report also states.

The report adds that Westmeath County Council is working with the Local Authorities Waters Programme (LAWPRO) team to investigate the sources of pollution.

“Extra samples have been taken from the lake and its feeder streams, and farm and septic tank surveys have been carried out. More surveys and sampling are planned for the 2021 season. Westmeath County Council will write to local landowners to provide information on best practice under the Good Agricultural Practice Regulations. During the 2020 bathing season, Westmeath County Council arranged to turn off the local small wastewater treatment plant and remove the wastewater regularly throughout the summer. This practice will be continued in 2021.”

Overall, the report has found that bathing water quality continued to improve in 2020 with 96 per cent of bathing waters (142 of 148) meeting or exceeding the minimum required standard. In total, 111 bathing waters were classified as excellent for 2020, up from 107 in 2019. Bathing water quality at four beaches, including Lilliput, was classified as poor, compared with five in 2019.

Commenting on the report, EPA Director Dr Eimear Cotter said:

“The continued improvement in bathing water quality is welcome.  It is also positive to see two new beaches being identified in 2020, and to see improvements at two beaches that had poor water quality previously. Good quality bathing waters are important now more than ever as more people enjoy our natural amenities, and particularly swimming. With many people now swimming outside the bathing season, the EPA is calling for additional water quality monitoring at beaches where there are large numbers of year-round swimmers, and that this information is made available to the public.”

The water quality at some beaches can be impacted when pollution, from wastewater and agriculture, gets washed in following heavy rainfall. Swimmers are encouraged to check www.beaches.ie for the most up to date water quality information.  Local authorities and Irish Water must continue to address sources of water pollution which impact some of our beaches to ensure that public health is protected.