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