Growing concern about Lough Swilly’s water quality

There are growing calls for action to be taken to improve water quality in Lough Swilly.
A former senator has warned a major public health issue is stirring in Donegal’s waters, while a watersports enthusiast has also raised concern about the quality of water in the Rathmullan area.
Catriona Woods said she was forced to abandon her plans after her eyes became bloodshot and her throat and nose tissue left irritated. She said the colour of the water was “definitely suggestive of sewage”.
Catherine Noone has been swimming in Donegal for the last two years and said she believes  the waters of Lough Swilly were polluted with sewage.
She has accused both Donegal County Council and Irish Water of “side stepping” their responsibilities.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Ms Noone said she believed a major contributor to the poor water quality in the Swilly was the main foul sewerage handling facility to the south of Fahan, between the Box Houses and Bradley’s Filling Station.
“I’m sure most of us don’t want to think about this, but the reality is that all of the foul sewage generated in Fahan is piped into a temporary holding area along the shore and the incoming tide effectively scoops out the raw effluent on the outgoing tide and distributes it into Lough Swilly.”
Days within setting up ‘Protect Lough Swilly’ on Facebook, the Mayo woman, who is no stranger to Donegal having been to the county on many Seanad campaign trails, said she has been inundated with people contacting her about their concerns.
“Lough Swilly is a Special Area of Conservation and between Donegal County Council and Irish Water they have side-stepped their responsibilities. Irish Water is responsible for a lot of the treatment plants. The work to address the issues in Fahan can’t start until the Buncrana plant is upgraded. In the meantime, raw sewage is being put into a SAC, and that is shocking. There is serious neglect and negligence here.”
Ms Noone has sought a meeting with Donegal County Council and has reported the issue to the National Parks and Wildlife for investigation.
She has also asked former colleagues/Oireachtas members to contact Irish Water to exert pressure in this regard.
“The situation cannot continue as it is – the more I learn the more I am disturbed about the neglect of water quality in beautiful Lough Swilly.
“I have opened the channels of engagement with Donegal County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
A solicitor by profession, Ms Noone said Donegal has “a lot on its plate”, with the mica crisis.
“That of course is the main issue at the minute, but I really believe this matter cannot go under the radar. There are safety issues for those swimming in the open waters, for those who are eating the fish from these waters and for fish life itself.”
Earlier this week Catriona Woods raised concern about the quality of water at Rathmullan beach. She said she was forced to abandon her plans that day after her eyes became bloodshot and her throat and nose tissue left irritated. She said the colour of the water was “definitely suggestive of sewage”.
In response, Donegal County Council said Rathmullan is part of Donegal County Council’s designated bathing water monitoring programme. Eleven samples  were tested over the course of the 2021 bathing season, with the final sample of the season having been lifted last week. According to results, the most recent sample taken by Donegal County Council on September 7 was rated as ‘excellent’.

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