A CALL TO AC­TION: LET’S IM­PROVE DUN­CAN­NON WATER QUAL­ITY

New Ross Standard - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID LOOBY

A num­ber of ini­tia­tives are be­ing de­vel­oped to try to im­prove the water qual­ity at Dun­can­non Beach, which led to a rec­om­men­da­tion for swim­mers not to swim there ear­lier this month.

One of th­ese ini­tia­tives is a pi­lot ‘Coastal Streams Cit­i­zen Sci­ence’ project led by Wex­ford County Coun­cil, Coast­watch and LAWCO, funded un­der the EU FLAGs pro­gramme. This project in­volves com­mu­ni­ties as­sess­ing the water qual­ity of their lo­cal streams by ex­am­in­ing the aquatic life fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar tech­nique used by the EPA.

The in­for­ma­tion pro­duced helps re­solve what the prob­lems may be and the ini­tia­tive is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant as it in­volves lo­cal peo­ple get­ting to know and look­ing af­ter their own lo­cal streams, Com­mu­nity Water Of­fi­cer Ann Phe­lan said.

Wex­ford County Coun­cil are also cur­rently work­ing with lo­cal agen­cies and farm­ers to de­velop a lo­cally led scheme to help farm­ers im­prove the man­age­ment of their farms for water pro­tec­tion while also pro­tect­ing their farm in­comes. The lo­cal author­ity are also work­ing with the com­mu­nity to im­prove the man­age­ment of sep­tic tanks, while Ir­ish Water are pri­ori­tis­ing the up­grade of Dun­can­non Treat­ment Plan with a view to find­ing a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion at Mer­sheen.

The water qual­ity at Dun­can­non Beach has been high­lighted as a po­ten­tial threat to public health and tourism. Th­ese were the key is­sues put for­ward at a public meet­ing held in the Fort Co­nan Ho­tel last Novem­ber.

The meet­ing, which at­tracted a large at­ten­dance from elected mem­bers and the lo­cal com­mu­nity, set out to get peo­ple’s views on the water qual­ity in the Dun­can­non area.

A whole range of is­sues emerged, and top­ping the list was the loss of blue flag sta­tus for Dun­can­non beach and the neg­a­tive ef­fect this was hav­ing on tourism. Other is­sues of in­ter­est in­cluded the sta­tus of fish­ing, shell­fish pro­duc­tion and the unique honeycomb co­ral in the area, all of which are of na­tional and even in­ter­na­tional im­por­tance.

Ac­cord­ing to Don­nachadh Byrne from In­land Fish­eries Ire­land ‘ The Cur­ragh­more River’ which flows onto Dun­can­non Beach is likely to hold res­i­dent pop­u­la­tions of Brown Trout, Brook Lam­prey and Euro­pean Eel, while it may also have stocks of mi- gra­tory Sea Trout and River Lam­prey.

Mr Byrne said: ‘ The river flows into the Water­ford Es­tu­ary where the Three Sis­ters, the Nore, Suir and Bar­row en­ter the Celtic sea. The Nore, Suir and Bar­row Rivers them­selves are im­por­tant Spring Salmon and Sea Trout fish­eries.’

Th­ese sys­tems sup­port sev­eral in­ter­na­tion­ally im­por­tant pro­tected fish species and so are des­ig­nated as a can­di­date Spe­cial Area of Con­ser­va­tion un­der the Euro­pean Habi­tats Di­rec­tive; species such as Salmon, River Lam­prey, Brook Lam­prey, Sea Lam­prey, Al­lis Shad and Taw­ite Shad are listed.

Water­ford Es­tu­ary it­self rep­re­sents ex­cel­lent nurs­ery habi­tat for nu­mer­ous com­mer­cially im­por­tant and an­gling fish species. Ex­cel­lent shore fish­ing for nu­mer­ous species in­clud­ing bass, dog­fish, dab, floun­der, plaice, sea trout, sil­ver eel, con­ger eel, con­ger eel, floun­der and whit­ing is avail­able along the shores of Water­ford Es­tu­ary in the vicin­ity of Dun­can­non.

Fish­er­men who at­tended the Dun­can­non public con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of the area for a whole range of com­mer­cial fish and shell­fish species in­clud­ing the ra­zor fish which abound in the area.

Ac­cord­ing to a spokesper­son from Na­tional Parks ‘ there are a range of in­ter­na­tion­ally im­por­tant species in the area that are im­por­tant from a wildlife per­spec­tive’.

‘For ex­am­ple, Dun­can­non beach it­self is also known for its Sand­wich Tern which roost in the area be­tween August and Septem­ber. Later on Gulls roost usu­ally in tan­dem with her­ring run in Novem­ber to Jan­uary.’

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Fran Igoe of the Lo­cal Author­ity Wa­ters and Com­mu­ni­ties Of­fice (LAWCO) ‘most, if not all of th­ese species de­pend on clean water. It is a no brainer then that pollution en­ter­ing the Cur­ragh­more River and the beach should be ad­dressed. The loss of the blue flag due to ex­ces­sive lev­els of E. coli in the lo­cal beach area is of ma­jor con­cern to ev­ery­body and ad­dress­ing the sources of pollution will re­quire a com­bined ef­fort from ev­ery­body.

‘ This can only be achieved by ev­ery­body pulling to­gether to deal with the prob­lem. Ev­ery­body means ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing house­hold­ers mak­ing sure that their sep­tic tanks work prop­erly and are re­spon­si­ble about what they flush down the toi­lets, farm­ers tak­ing care of how they man­age their farm ef­flu­ents and public agen­cies such as Ir­ish Water and Wex­ford County Coun­cil work­ing to pro­vide a so­lu­tion to the sewage dis­charge at Dun­can­non pier.’

THE WATER QUAL­ITY HAS BEEN HIGH­LIGHTED AS A PO­TEN­TIAL THREAT TO PUBLIC HEALTH

Dun­can­non beach.

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