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Blue Flags need to be regained - Hyland

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POPULAR Carrowmore Beach, which attracts surfers in big numbers, has lost its Blue Flag status.

Anton McNulty

A WESTPORT councillor has called on Mayo County Council to ‘step up to the plate’ and resolve water quality issues on Mayo beaches after two beaches lost their prestigious Blue Flag status.
An Taisce have confirmed that Mayo was awarded nine Blue Flags for 2022 but two beaches - Carrrowmore and Clare Island - both lost their Blue Flag status due to water quality issues with the two beaches. They were two of only five beaches in Ireland which failed to retain their Blue Flag status from 2021.
The International Blue Flag is awarded to beaches which adhere to specific criteria related to water quality, information provision, environmental education, safety and site management.
There were no new beaches awarded Blue Flags in 2022 and the nine beaches which retained the prestigious status were Keel, Keem, Dooega, Golden Strand and Dugort in Achill; Mulranny, Mullaghmore and Elly Bay in Belmullet and Ross in Killala.
Westport-based councillor Christy Hyland said the loss of Blue Flags at Carrowmore and Clare Island follows the loss of Blue Flags at Bertra and Old Head in recent years and meant that no beaches south of Clew Bay have Blue Flags.
He stated that tourism providers in the region were angry that this has been allowed to happen and felt that Mayo County Council have not provided the answers to why this is happening.

Affecting tourism
“The loss of these Blue Flag beaches will have a serious impact on tourism and it is time Mayo County Council stepped up to the plate and ensure that these beaches regain their Blue Flags in the future. I have been asking the council for a while what is the issue with the water quality at these beaches and I have yet to be told. It is more than dogs walking the beach for the water quality to be impacted.
“I am still not satisfied that the treatment plant at both Carrowmore and Old Head are both working 100 percent efficiently. I have asked the question a number of times and I have yet to get a satisfactory answer.
“Old Head lost its Blue Flag nearly ten years ago and despite Mayo County Council environmental officers going out there every year they have not identified the problem and the solution. It is not good enough and it is time the environment department of the council come up with solutions to the water quality issues,” he said.
Carrowmore is considered one of the top beaches in Mayo and last year Mayo County Council and Fáilte Ireland chose it as one of only two beaches in the county to develop an all-weather facility.
The loss of the Blue Flag at Carrowmore is due to water quality issues following testing during 2021 which found elevated levels on four occasions. As a result the water quality was classified as ‘Good’ by the EPA when a status of ‘Excellent’ is required for Blue Flag status.
Water quality issues were also detected at Clare Island and possible causes suggested are diffuse pollution from agriculture and domestic wastewater treatment systems.
Five Mayo beaches received a Green Flag award which recognises beaches for their clean environment, excellent water quality and natural beauty. The Mayo beaches were Portacloy, Rinroe, Termon, Srah and Tránaun on Inishturk.
Kerry has the largest number of Blue Flag beaches in Ireland with 13 followed by Donegal with 12 and Cork with eleven.