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Water quality tests in Ireland are not good enough – the real picture is a lot worse


Some 73% of the 148 beaches and lakes which are formally designated as swimming spots are deemed to be of an excellent standard under EU testing rules. Overall, 96% meet the minimum standards. However, a group of researchers at NUI Galway Antimicrobial Resistance and Microbial Ecology (ARME) group have recently detected antibiotic-resistant bacteria in swimming spots that are designated as of good or excellent quality. These bacteria were detected in every water sample and just over half of the bacteria that isolated from the water were multidrug-resistant. These superbugs are resistant to multiple second-line antibiotics, normally used to treat infections when the first line antibiotics fail. In five water samples, CPE was found – the most worrying type of superbugs. These are resistant to even the last-resort antibiotics, the carbapenems.

In 2019, Ireland ranked 22nd out of 30 European countries for the quality of our bathing waters. However, there are still 35 towns and villages where sewage is being discharged into rivers, estuaries or the sea without treatment. It is the equivalent of 78,000 people flushing their toilets straight into natural waterways. This raises the question as to whether the EU sanctioned testing regime is good enough.
“The PIER project is looking into whether swimmers and surfers are more likely to be colonised with these superbugs than those who do not get into the water much. In order to build a picture of this issue, we need the public, particularly those who do not swim regularly, to support the research.” The Journal.Ie, 11 June 2021

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