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Camper vans blamed for water quality issues

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LANDMARK The stunning beach in Mulranny was key to the village receiving a Silver Award in the Entente Florale competition in 2019. It has been claimed the water quality at the Blue Flag beach was compromised by waste from a camper van last week.

Council official claims waste deposited on Mulranny beach

Anton McNulty

A SENIOR official with Mayo County Council has suggested that users of a campervan deposited waste in the water close to a popular Blue Flag beach.
An incident occurred in Mulranny on Friday where concerns were raised over the quality of the water around the Blue Flag beach near the west Mayo beauty spot.
While a no swimming warning was not issued, testing of the water was carried out which confirmed the presence of a substance which could have had an adverse affect on the water quality.
Earlier this month, a no swim notice was issued on Bertra beach after increased levels of e-coli was detected and Martin Keating, the head of the environment section of Mayo County Council, told a meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District yesterday (Monday) that it is suspected that waste from a camper van was the source of problem.
“Not wanting to scapegoat any sector, but there are strong suspicions in relation to Mulranny that this may have emanated from camper van waste disposed at the pier.
“I mention these in particular because they point at issues which may be outside our direct control and again, this is an issue and doesn’t take a lot to influence and get adverse water quality results,” he said.

Significant increase
There has been a significant increase in the number of people travelling around the county in camper vans since the Covid pandemic and Mr Keating admitted that this has not been matched by the services and facilities to cater for them. This, he said, has resulted in a rise in wild camping which brings its issues which they have to address.
“We have been working closely on the keep ‘Mayo Wild and Beautiful’ campaign and focusing attention on issues that arise with the significant increase in people visiting the county. We give practical advice to people on how they can visit us without causing damage or harm to the environment,” he said.
Following the incident in Mulranny, Mr Keating said they will increase the wild and beautiful campaign to try to combat further instances of this happening.
Earlier this summer, Keem Bay on Achill Island was one of the most popular locations for wild camping with concerns it was leading to littering and damage to the landscape caused by camp fires.
In recent weeks, Mayo County Council introduced by-laws prohibiting overnight camping and parking with increased patrols of the area. Achill councillor Paul McNamara complimented the council on all the work they have done in the area regarding wild camping and said there has to be some control over it.
“We do not want to have a great summer and then find out the following year that one of our Blue Flag beaches do not qualify because we took no action on wild camping.
“Regarding Mulranny and the disposal from the camper van, if that is what happened it is totally unacceptable that someone will do that at one of our Blue Flag beaches. Going forward we have to look at policing our beaches more because they have become an important part of our tourist infrastructure, in good and bad weather. It is important we put everything in place to hold on our Blue Flag beaches and have a dedicated person to patrol our beaches and keep them clean,” he said.

Retaining Blue Flags
Mr Keating also outlined that the priority for the council is to ensure that the Blue Flag status is retained at Old Head and Bertra beaches and identify how the water quality is failing. He added that they will concentrate on ensuring Mayo has the best Blue Flag beaches as opposed to having the most.
However, he noted to do this will take a ramping up in investment and they hope to increase the budget available to do this.
Cllr Peter Flynn said it was important that Old Head and Bertra regain their Blue Flag status and was also pleased to hear Mr Keating say that ‘quality over quantity’ was how the council wished to proceed.

3011 MPU