New €6.7m investigation into Irish Sea pollution launched

14 Mar 2017

Dublin Bay. Image: David Soanes/Shutterstock

A partnership between Irish and Welsh universities is set to improve the water quality of both countries’ beaches.

An EU-backed Ireland-Wales cooperation initiative has been launched to clean up beaches on the Irish Sea, with €6.7m allocated for the programme.

Called Acclimatize and led by University College Dublin (UCD), the project will identify sources of pollution and its impact on bathing waters as a result of climate change.

The ultimate aim is to improve the quality of sea shores in both countries, helping to boost tourism and supporting marine activities.

Pollution is an obvious problem, and the depths of the planet’s woes are continually plunging.

For example, a recent study spanning the depths of Earth’s oceans found that two of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean are home to man-made pollutants.

Sampling amphipods from the Marianas and Kermadec trenches, Newcastle University’s Dr Alan Jamieson led a study that found extremely high levels of pollution in the organism’s fatty tissue.

These included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, pollutants commonly used as electrical insulators and flame retardants.

The former was banned in the 1970s in many parts of the world, which means that during its four-decade run, enough PCB was produced – estimated at 1.3m tonnes – to have a potentially damaging impact 40 years later.

The Acclimatize project will focus on bathing waters, including Dublin Bay and Cemaes Bay in Anglesey, and other beaches. Real-time models will be developed to inform the effects of climate change through altered weather patterns, affecting rainfall, temperature and tides, which impact on coastal areas.

Prof Wim Meijer of the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science claims that the study will help to develop management systems to better protect beaches and water.

“This will support economic growth through improved water quality, which will lead to a range of benefits, such as increased tourism and shellfish harvesting in Ireland and Wales,” he said.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic