I have raised this matter previously in this House and others have raised it as well. There is a strong emphasis around Dublin Bay on improving water quality in the bay. It is a long-standing issue but it has been particularly highlighted by the number of people using the sea facilities since Covid as they have become much more engaged with all-year round sea swimming. I work with a group called SOS Dublin Bay, which has done extraordinary work and great research on this. I have done my own research on it and found that constituents in my area in Dún Laoghaire have experienced illnesses from swimming. This is replicated around Dublin Bay with the presence of E. coli and other harmful bacteria. We recognise that a major upgrade of water services is needed in the area but there are things we can do to help in the meantime. People want to know if the water quality is good or bad. They acknowledge that a water upgrade is needed but random things can affect water quality, such as a heavy downpour for a day or two, movement of birds and excrement from birds, creating localised problems.
What people really want to know, in advance of the upgrade of the water system, is what the water quality is. We need to get to a point where people can check it on an app on their phone. I can check the weather and tide but I should also be able to check the water quality. The reason I could do that is all-year round testing of the water. We are looking for two things. First, we want all-year round testing of the water and the provision of that information, transparently, to people who live in the Dublin area. That way, if they want to go swimming, they can make a decision based on the water quality on a given day, recognising that there can be random days here or there where it is not good, pending the upgrade. Second, the ultraviolet technology in Ringsend should be made available for longer than it is currently, which is three months. I believe that has been extended partially and I would love to know for exactly how long. I have not got that information from the Department yet.
We have been engaged in a process with the Department for some time. The representatives of SOS Dublin Bay and I have been in correspondence since the beginning of 2021. They met with the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, in May 2021, and received a letter from him, which was supportive, in August 2021. It set out the various work his Department would engage in. Crucially, it stated the Department would be commencing work to amend the existing bathing water regulations, SI 79/2008, to allow local authorities to determine the bathing season for individual bathing waters and to support Irish Water in additional monitoring of the impact of UV disinfection. If we can extend the bathing season to the realistic bathing season, which is now all-year round, and not just the three months of the summer, we could then have all-year round testing and would be able to provide that information in a transparent way to people who want to use the water.
I have been disappointed with the correspondence and the pace of engagement from the Department and the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, whose responsibility this is, since then. SOS Dublin Bay followed up with another letter on 25 January pointing out that the purpose of the bathing water directive is to preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment and protect human health. That must be acknowledged. We need to take further steps to implement that directive.