The surge in year-round sea swimming could lead to an extended official bathing season and swimmers conducting their own water-quality tests.
Officials are considering the move as the June 1 to September 15 designated season falls increasingly out of step with public habits. Extending it would mean more frequent water testing, more public notifications, and possibly the deployment of lifeguards outside the summer months.
That would answer some of the pleas of cold weather sea swimmers who worry they don’t know if they are exposed to contamination.
Minister for Housing and Local Government Darragh O’Brien said he had asked the Bathing Water Expert Group to “determine the appetite nationally for any changes”.
He said one factor to be considered was “the reality that poor weather during winter months will likely lead to more frequent bathing prohibitions”.
Green Party councillor and year-round sea swimmer Donna Cooney said, however, swimmers should be able to make informed choices about where they swam, and continuous monitoring would keep a spotlight on the need to tackle pollution.
“A woman contacted me who got sick after swimming one day last week and asked if there might have been E-coli or something in the water,” Ms Cooney said.
“All I can do at this time of year is contact the lab used by the city council and see was there testing that day, what were the results and if there was an issue and still is, try to get that information out there. It should be a simple matter of testing being done every day and the results posted every day.”
Results of tests are posted regularly online and on on-site notices during the official bathing season. Mr O’Brien has also asked the expert group to examine calls to create new designated bathing areas, and to consider giving fast-result E-coli test kits to swimming and water sports groups to avoid the standard 18 to 36-hour wait for full lab results.
He said the test kits, developed by the Water Institute at Dublin City University, would have to be quality checked but added: “They may form part of any amendments to the sampling and monitoring protocols for bathing waters in the future.”
Source – The Irish Independent