Public Consultation - Bathing Waters under the Bathing Waters Directive (2006/7/EC) and the Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008 (SI No. 79 of 2008).
The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is coordinating the initial public participation process as part of the identification of Bathing Waters under the Bathing Waters Directive (2006/7/EC) and the Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008 (SI No. 79 of 2008).
Under the 2008 Regulations, local authorities are required to identify bathing waters. This must be done for the first time before 24 March 2011 and annually thereafter. It is also a requirement of the Regulations that the public be involved in their implementation, including in the identification of bathing water sites.
Accordingly, the Department invites comments from interested parties in relation to the identification of Bathing Waters. Comments can be submitted as follows:
- By post to: Water Quality Section
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
- by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
All submissions will be referred to the relevant Local Authority for consideration.
The closing date for receipt of submissions has been extended to Friday 1st October, 2010
Bathing Waters are an important amenity, valuable for both their tourism and recreational potential. It is important that they are afforded the appropriate protections in accordance with legislation, including the European Union's Bathing Waters Directive. The Directive requires that water quality at all designated bathing waters meets stringent microbiological standards in order to protect the health of people who choose to bathe there.
The Bathing Waters Directive (2006/7/EC) is concerned with the management of bathing water quality generally, with the exception of swimming pools, spa pools and waters used for therapeutic purposes.
Article 1.3 of the Directive states that it applies to: "Any element of surface water where the competent authority expects a large number of people to bathe and has not imposed a permanent bathing prohibition, or issued permanent advice against bathing"
This Directive came into force on 24 March 2006 and will repeal the existing 1976 Directive with effect from 31 December 2014.
The Directive was transposed into Irish Law by the Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008 (S.I. No. 79 of 2008). The 2006 Directive establishes a new classification system for bathing water quality based on four classifications "poor", "sufficient", "good" and "excellent" and generally requires that a classification of ‘sufficient’ be achieved by 2015 for all bathing waters. Transitional measures are in place until the new Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008 (SI No. 79 of 2008), are fully implemented.
The quality of bathing water in Ireland for 2009 (EPA Bathing Water Quality Report 2009), was generally of a high standard. The number of designated seawater bathing areas was 122 and there were 9 designated inland bathing areas.
Compliance with the standards for the combined total of 131 Bathing Waters showed no change for the mandatory standard for 2009 (93% compliant) and an increase in compliance levels for the guide standard (82% compliance in 2009, up from 78% compliance in 2008).
The legislation governing the quality of bathing waters for the 2010 season continues to be the Quality of Bathing Waters Regulations, 1992 (S.I 155 of 1992) and amendments, which transposed the earlier 1976 EU Directive concerning the quality of bathing water. The purpose is to ensure that bathing water quality is maintained and if necessary improved so that it complies with specified standards designated to protect health and the environment.
Identification of Bathing Waters
Under the old Regulations the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government has the power to designate bathing waters following assessment of a detailed submission from a Local Authority. Under the new Regulations, it is now the responsibility of the Local Authorities to identify Bathing Waters within their functional areas, by 24th March 2011 and annually thereafter by 24th March and to notify the EPA of the designated sites.
It is expected that all 131 sites currently designated will be included on the first list to be supplied to the Agency by the 24th March 2011. It is also expected that the extent of designation will be maintained or increased.
Among other things, the 2008 Bathing Water Quality Regulations require that:
- Not later than 24 March 2011, Local Authorities identify all bathing waters for the bathing season of that year and notify them to the EPA
- the bathing waters to be identified are all elements of surface waters (sea and freshwater) where the local authorities expect ‘a large number of people’ to bathe;
- Local Authorities should ensure public participation in the identification process.
The new Directive and Regulations require public participation in the identification process. This consultation process provides the public with an opportunity to:
- comment on existing designated bathing waters with a view to continuation of designation
- comment on other bathing waters not currently designated but which may be considered for designation.
Information on existing designated bathing waters is available on the bathing water website (external site) (link is external) and also on the beach awards website (external site) (link is external) .
Criteria to be used for identification of Bathing Waters
The term ‘large numbers of bathers’ is not defined by the Directive but should be assessed in light of past trends at the site or to any infrastructure or facilities provided to promote bathing.
Generally, a ‘large number of bathers’ will be found at popular, well-used bathing waters and lakes where bathing is encouraged and facilities for bathers have been provided. European law and practice has made it clear that the number of bathers is not the only relevant criterion for identifying bathing waters
In making your submission in relation to the identification of bathing water sites, it might be helpful to consider the following factors, in addition to numbers using the site:
- Past trends;
- Infrastructure or facilities provided (including accessibility);
- Safety considerations.
What Happens Next?
The Department will forward all submissions received to the appropriate local authority. The local authority will then take due account of the submissions, in drawing up its list of bathing water sites.
The legislation requires the local authorities to develop ‘profiles’ for each of the designated sites. These are detailed descriptions of the bathing water sites, their characteristics and those of other surface waters within the catchment area, which could be a source of pollution. The profiles will include an assessment of the risk of pollution and the responses to be taken in the event of a pollution incident occurring.
Please note that the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government is coordinating this process and that submissions received may also come under the provisions of the FOI Act.