SOME of the country's most popular swimming spots in Dublin, Galway and Waterford, are polluted by raw sewage from council plants.
Nine popular beaches in Dublin have bugs in their water - even after the opening of a state-of-the-art €300m sewage treatment plant in Ringsend in 2003.
The name and shame revelations are contained in the annual Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) Bathing Water Quality report.
As the swimming season approaches, Galway, still in the grip of a drinking water contamination crisis, is also named as having one of four national beaches that fail to meet even the minimum mandatory EU water standards because of council sewage.
But the EPA report finds that overall the water quality at most Irish beaches is high. But it urges local authorities to protect public health by keeping beaches free from pollution.
The report finds:
* The most polluted bathing water is at Clifden, Balbriggan, Dunmore East, and Malahide - because of e-coli from untreated sewage.
* Two of Galway's beaches, Spiddal and Clifden, are branded "persistent offenders".
* Thirteen other beaches fail to meet a higher EU standard which all councils have been told to meet. They are Dollymount Strand, Balbriggan, Loughshinny, Malahide, Sutton Burrow Beach (all Dublin), Clifden, Spiddal and Na Forbacha (Galway), Enniscrone (Sligo), Ardmore and Dunmore East Main Strand (Waterford), Ballyallia Lake, Ennis (Clare), Keeldra lake Cloone (Leitrim).
* Nine beaches failed to meet national standards because of faecal streptococci bugs. They are Balbriggan, Loughshinny, Malahide, Portmarnock, Rush , Sutton, Clifden, Ardmore and Tramore.
The report says the worst persistent offenders over five years are Balbriggan, Sutton Burrow Beach, Clifden, Spiddal and Ardmore.
Gerard O'Leary, EPA Programme Manager, said: "While the overall level of bathing water quality remains high, the EPA remains concerned that a small number of bathing areas do not conform to the minimum mandatory standards."
The report found that 127 of the 131 bathing areas (97pc) complied with the mandatory standards, one more than in 2005.
A total of 118 (90pc) spots complied with the much stricter EU guideline standards, one fewer than in 2005.
Mr O'Leary said the main reason for beach waters failing the EU standards was inadequately treated sewage.
"Local Authorities should continually update the public on the quality of bathing waters during the upcoming bathing water season. They must ensure that water quality complies with the bathing water standards," he said.
On the positive side 11 out of the 18 local authorities complied fully with the EU standards. These were: Cork Co Council, Donegal, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, Galway City, Kerry , Louth, Mayo, Meath , Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.
© Irish Independent