SWIMMING has been banned indefinitely by Clare County Council at Kilkee beach following an instance of sewage entering the water from the pumping station this week.
The latest ban is the second in six months at the same location and for the same reason and comes just days before the annual charity Christmas Day swim at the beach.
On Wednesday afternoon, Clare County Council issued a prohibition notice on swimming at Kilkee beach “until further notice”, on the instruction of the HSE and in consultation with Irish Water.
“The restriction has been introduced following the failure of a storm surge vessel at the Irish Water pump station in Kilkee. The situation will be kept under review,” the council statement said, while confirming that signage notifying the public of the prohibition on bathing would be erected.
Irish Water also confirmed that a ‘do not swim’ notice has been issued following an emergency discharge of storm water, which contains elements of wastewater, from the Kilkee pumping station into the sea via the beach.
“On the advice of the HSE, Irish Water and Clare County Council are advising members of the public not to swim or engage in other recreational activities in the water. This emergency discharge occurred as a result the failure of a storm surge pressure vessel, which is an operational safety device, at the Kilkee pumping station, combined with heavy rainfall in the area over recent days,” Irish Water explained.
“As a consequence, the pumping station was unable to pump the larger than usual volume of combined storm and foul wastewater which is entering the system and it became necessary to release the excess storm water via the Victoria Stream into an overflow open culvert, which discharges into the sea on the west side of Kilkee beach. Irish Water and Clare County Council are working, as a matter of priority, to resolve the issue and minimise the impact on Kilkee beach. This includes the installation of variable speed drives on the remaining foul water pump to better manage the large volumes of storm water entering the system. This work was due to be completed on Wednesday,” the statement added.
Irish Water also said it is committed to introducing a number of improvements to address deficiencies at the pumping station.
“A project team has been appointed to identify the necessary upgrade work and has reviewed a variety of options to facilitate these works. Irish Water and Clare County Council are working on this as a matter of priority with the aim of completing these works in time for the start of the 2017 bathing season. In the interim, users of Kilkee beach are advised not to swim or engage in other water sports in the area. Beach users should avoid swallowing or splashing water and wash hands before handling food,” Irish Water’s statement advised.
Councillor Ian Lynch, meanwhile, has expressed “extreme anger” at the latest instance of sewage entering the bay.
“I completely understand the concern for public safety and this must be the priority at all times but it is outrageous that this has been allowed happen twice in a six-month period. The root cause of the problem is being ignored by Irish Water. The foul sewerage treatment infrastructure is totally inadequate in Kilkee and needs urgent attention. Public protection must be our priority and to say that infrastructure of this nature is in several of our key tourist locations is mind-blowing in this day and age,” Councillor Lynch claimed.
“Reactionary measures, such as beach closure, should not be the answer. Fixing the problem must be the priority. Irish Water must now ensure that the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant for Kilkee is given the priority that it deserves. This is not alone about protecting people’s health, it is also about protecting jobs, livelihoods, the environment and the reputation of one of the most beautiful and safe locations for bathing within our county.
“This situation can simply not continue and I am calling on Irish Water to remove Kilkee wastewater treatment plant from the capital projects plan and for the project to be placed on the emergency programme plan for immediate commencement,” Councillor Lynch added.
On a seperate matter, Clare County Council is urging Christmas Day swimmers in other parts of the county to exercise “extreme caution” due to forecasted strong winds and sea swells this weekend.
On Friday a deep depression, which has been named Barbara, will track eastwards across the Atlantic and move to the north of Scotland. This storm will mean strong winds on the Clare coast, with waves of 10ft to 20ft forecast.
“Extreme caution should be taken by all those planning on participating in Christmas Day swims. Be aware that strong currents are caused by large waves, which would make conditions very dangerous for swimmers,” Clare McGrath, Clare Water Safety Development Officer warned.
By Peter O’Connell