Liffey swim run despite poor water quality

Over 600 swimmers competed in the Liffey swim on Saturday 03rd August 2019, despite findings of poor water quality. Levels of pollution found in samples from the river would have closed regular swimming spots such as public beaches. However, as the Liffey is not technically a designated bathing area, it was not required to close under bathing water legislation and the event went ahead.

Early in the preceding week, debris from sewers was washed into the Liffey following heavy downpours. On Thursday 01st August, Irish Water had been made aware of a discharge of sewage into the river in the Knockmaroon area, which may have been active for days before being rectified. On Friday afternoon, the day prior to the event, the HSE and Dublin City Council advised race organisers and swimmers that water samples from the river were “exceptionally poor” and had a risk of causing illness. Following this, the council said that it was not possible to get any more samples taken and tested before the event. This demonstrates a need for more accessible water quality tests with lower turnaround times.

The council hoped that water quality had improved in the time before the event. They hoped that the pollutants were diluted leading up to the swim, citing the tidal cycles and the ESB increasing flows in the Liffey, but could not promise water cleanliness. The HSE issued a notice stating that a “significant increase in bacteria” was found in water samples from the river. They advised that water-based activities may cause illness and recommended several precautions for anyone entering the water.


1:  VIDEO,, (accessed 13 August 2019).

2:  A. McMahon and J. Horgan-Jones, Liffey Swim to go ahead despite findings of poor water quality,, (accessed 12 August 2019).

3:  C. Ní Bhroin, Liffey Swim to go ahead despite water quality concerns,, (accessed 13 August 2019).

4:  HSE Statement – River Liffey water quality concern,, (accessed 13 August 2019).

Image Credit:  S. Boal, Rolling News,, (accessed 13 August 2019).

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