I propose to take Questions Nos. 162 to 164, inclusive, together.
The identification of bathing waters is a matter for local authorities under the Bathing Water Quality Regulations 2008 which transposed the EU Bathing Water Directive 2006 into Irish law. Regulation 4 of the regulations places a requirement on local authorities, on or before 24 March each year, to identify bathing waters in relation to the bathing season in that year and to notify the EPA of the bathing waters so identified and the reason for any change compared to the previous year. Donegal County Council therefore, is the competent authority for the identification of bathing waters in Lough Foyle.
My Department does not compile or keep statistics in relation to public requests for identification of bathing waters. However, the overall number of identified bathing water sites has increased from 131 in 2008 to 136 in 2012. The additional bathing waters are in the Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Fingal local authority areas. The 2008 Regulations require, inter alia, that bathing waters to be identified are to be all elements of surface waters where the local authorities expect a large number of people to bathe. The term ‘large number’ is not defined by the Directive. In 2010 my Department issued guidance to local authorities on the identification of bathing waters, and advised them to use their own discretion in deciding a threshold for a ‘large number’ of bathers. The guidance notes that this number will vary due to numerous factors, including proximity to urban areas, ease of access by road, scenic amenity, tradition of bathing at the site and proximity to recreational / tourism amenities.
Local authorities are required to ensure that appropriate measures have been taken in relation to encouraging public participation in the process of establishment, review and updating of bathing waters.