Irish marine scientist calls for more water monitoring devices to spot pollution

29 Aug 2012

SmartBay buoy off the Galway coastline

Following the most recent E coli contamination that was detected in the waters off the coastlines of Cork and Galway, which resulted in beaches being closed for a time last week, Professor Fiona Regan, an environmental scientist at Dublin City University (DCU), has called for more water-monitoring devices so that scientists can detect pollution in real-time.

According to Regan there’s a real need for increased real-time water-quality monitoring here in Ireland.

“In light of the recent pollution which closed beaches in Cork and Galway, we really see the need to develop low-cost monitoring devices,” she said.

According to Regan there aren’t any bacterial water devices in Ireland at the minute. She said that the country, however, should deploy water-quality
monitoring systems so that scientists can be alerted of any possible pollution and to carry more sophisticated bacterial analysis before informing the public.

But how many of such sensors would a country like Ireland need? “We should have these low-cost sensors all over the coastline and in our rivers,” said Regan. And with researchers such as Dr Lorna Fitzsimons at DCU pioneering such devices, Regan said it is about driving down the costs as much as possible.

“We don’t need them everywhere. It’s about placing them in the right areas,” she said.

One such environmental monitoring test-bed at the moment is the SmartBay buoy that’s situated off the Galway coastline. It has been pioneered by the Marine Institute.

“We redeployed that system in June. We placed a sensor on it to test it out in the field and to collect data. It’s an optical senor for water-quality monitoring,” explained Regan.

She was speaking in advance of a Technology Touchdown symposium on marine pollution and sensing technology that both DCU and the University of Notre Dame are hosting tomorrow and Friday. The conference is being held to coincide with the Navy-Notre Dame American football game that’s taking place in the Aviva stadium in Dublin at the weekend.

Regan said that the conference will allow both universities to share research ideas around environmental challenges and sensing technology.

“It will cover from fundamental science right through to applications,” she said.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic