FINGAL County Council is investigating what “land-based” pollution incident caused E coli levels in the waters off Rush to soar to harmful levels earlier this month.
The South Beach in Rush was closed during the August Bank Holiday weekend when the E coli level spiked from a reading of 275 to a startling 2,145 in just one week, far higher than the EU mandatory permitted levels.
While the council is adamant that the contamination originated onshore, local residents are less convinced, believing instead that the problem was caused, if not worsened, by the close proximity to the shoreline of a sewage pipe that enters the sea off the North County Dublin town.
Hella Toolan, who lives at Tayleur’s Point, said it was a shame that she and her family could not avail of the local amenity on their doorstep.
“We had to get into our car and drive to Skerries so that we could enjoy the the beach,” she told Northside People.
“If I hadn’t seen the Red Flag I wouldn’t have paid any attention to the water. It didn’t look any different to any other day.
“Many of us feel that the sewage pipe that goes into the sea in Rush is unsuitable for the increased local population and it’s too close to the shoreline.
“This could have led or at least added to the contamination problem at Rush.”
She added: “You’d have to question whether the beach in Skerries was unaffected because the sewage pipe which leads into the sea there is much longer than the pipe at Rush.”
Hella’s husband, Niall Toolan, said it was strange how the E coli level spiked when the level had been low in the weeks leading up to and since the beach closure.
“I find it hard to believe that a heavy rainfall caused the contamination as we’ve had plenty of weeks of big downpours when the water quality has tested safe,” he stated.
“I know myself from collecting seaweed along the shoreline just how much human waste and sanitary products get washed up. It’s more than worrying.”
The Rush E coli scare occurred days before ‘No Swim' advisory notices were issued for seven beaches in County Cork due to high levels of E coli.
A spokesperson for Fingal County Council said bathing water sampling is carried out to protect the swimming public and that water quality standards are much higher than in previous years.
“Council engineers are satisfied that the source of the elevated E coli at Rush South Beach just before the August Bank Holiday weekend was not an offshore one, ie it had nothing to do with the discharge pipeline, but in fact a land-based pollution incident,” the spokesperon told Northside People.
“Investigations are ongoing to precisely identify the cause of this problem with a view to resolving it as soon as possible.
“The council continues to carry out regular water quality sampling on all of our beaches and the results of these tests are made available to the public as soon as they are available.
“When mandatory water quality standards are breached the public is advised immediately.
“In the meantime there is no reason to be concerned about water quality on any Fingal beach.”
According to the council, it is a feature of coastal water in Fingal that bathing water quality deteriorates during periods of bad weather and heavy rainfall.
The spokesperson also clarified that the sewage pipe in Skerries was a “long sea outfall” running from the Skerries Treatment Works and is around 2km in length.
“The pipe in Rush will not be extended,” the spokesperson stated. “The current plan for the treatment of Rush sewerage is split into a number of sections.
“The first section is almost complete and the next section, which is the provision of a new pumping station at South Shore Beach, is awaiting funding.
“The entire project will take about two and a half years to complete and when finished will mean that all sewerage will be diverted to the Portrane Treatment plant via the new Whitestown pumping station.”