Kerry seaside resort wants council to prioritize actions after floods threaten Blue Flag status

Just two weeks after Ballybunion North retained its Blue Flag status, recent heavy rains are raising concerns among some locals, who say the Kerry County Council (KCC) needs to reduce flood damage. Priority should be given to work.

CC placed a bathing prohibition notice on Ballybunian North until the water quality improved. It is expected that tests will return to normal levels by the end of this week.

The KCC also issued an ‘early warning’ for designated bathing beaches at Ballybunion South, Ballyheigue, Banna, Fenit, Maharabeg, Ventry, Inch, Kells, Cuas Crom, White Strand, Ballinskelligs, Derrynane and Inny Strand.

However, locals in Ballybunian believe that the source of the flood is due to a combination of factors, chief among them a stream that empties into Ballybunian north.

The stream enters the beach at this point due to the overflow of the river by the three tributaries of the Feil – the Gelle, the Brik and the Smierlag.

It is believed that the stream, when under flood pressure, can act as a runoff point for sewage and slurry from the surrounding land.

Donal Liston, president of the Ballybunian Community Forum, said the stream is fed by an “unusual confluence of rivers”.

“We thought it was a blip when we first lost the Blue Flag. It has to be seen if we have to protect it. We can’t carry on and the negative publicity it causes. The season is too short,” Donal said.

“If we get another bad test, our blue flag will be in danger again. The tests need to be done several times on an average as 99 percent of the water here is crystal clear.

“We’re concerned, and there’s not much we can do about it. If there’s anything the council can do, they should try to figure out the problem for us,” Donal said.

Local Sinn Féin Cler Robert Beasley said the stream has been an issue in Ballybunian North for many years.

“I was on the council and they say they are fixing it. But we will need a long-term solution to this,” he said.

Cllr Beasly said floodwaters overwhelmed the local sewerage system, which was discharged at points near the Castle Green site.

“It’s a complicated situation. Even when they put the new toilets on top of Castle Green, there’s a part of the old [sewerage] system operating.

“We believe this is redundant now, but I don’t believe it is,” he said.

In a response to Kerry County Council (KCC) regarding the closure of Ballybunion North, it said that extremely heavy rains over the past weekend caused overflow from the treatment plant in Ballybunion.

The incident has been reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

KCC revealed that over the past year there had been an extensive investigation of sewer networks in Ballybunian, as well as visits to landowners in the catchment area.

As part of the work, this included the restoration of water quality in the Gulf and the restoration of the Blue Flag.

KSS says that at that time the issue of old sewer system in Ballybunian was also raised. It was checked and there is no problem with the ‘old pipe’ which is actually located on South Beach.

As mentioned, extensive catchment management work was undertaken to determine the issue affecting water quality, including any runoff.

This work will continue to ensure that the water quality remains within the parameters required for a Blue Flag beach.

The water quality was further checked on Monday. If clear, it is hoped the beach can reopen in time for the weekend.