County Down continues to enjoy some of the best bathing water quality in Europe, provisional figures have revealed.
Around the Northern Ireland coast, 22 of the 23 identified bathing waters met the strict European standards for bathing water quality. A further three candidate sites were monitored for the first time at Cloughey, Kilclief and Ballyhornan. Over half of these sites (15 of 26) met the ‘Excellent’ standards required as a prerequisite for a coveted Blue Flag Award. A further 10 sites met the ‘Good’ or ‘Sufficient’ standards, with Ballyholme just missing out on the ‘Sufficient’ and failing to meet the minimum standard.
The provisional results were announced today at the Better Beaches Forum held in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s (NIEA) offices in Lisburn. The Forum members are the Department of the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Northern Ireland Water, coastal local authorities, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the National Trust, Surfers Against Sewage and some coastal community groups. The Better Beaches Forum meets annually and works throughout the year collaboratively to:
* Improve water quality
* Improve beach cleanliness, facilities management and signage; and
* Keep the public and media better informed.
David Small, Chief Excecutive of NIEA said: “This is a solid performance for Northern Ireland’s beaches, especially given the wet August weather.
“The marginal failure at Ballyholme is disappointing. However, as compliance is assessed on the summer data over a four year period, it is perhaps not surprising. It can take time to measure improvements. The raw data shows an improvement at Ballyholme between 2016 and 2017. These improvements are likely to be as a result of the extensive work being carried out in the catchment and the work being carried out on the sewerage infrastructure in Bangor by Northern Ireland Water.
“Our beaches also contribute to the health and well-being of locals and visitors alike. It is key that we continue to be focussed on collectively improving our management of this priceless resource.”
Wet weather events impact on bathing water quality by increasing runoff from agricultural land and also because sewerage systems are designed to overflow in these conditions. Met Office reports are that August rainfall was at 130% of the average figures for the month.
The results were as follows:
* Excellent Quality Identified Sites – Magilligan (Benone), Magilligan (Downhill), Castlerock, Portstewart, Portrush Mill – (West), Portrush Whiterocks, Portballintrae, Helen’s Bay, Groomsport, Tyrella, Murlough Co. Down and Cranfield Bay.
* Excellent Quality Candidate Sites – Cloughey, Kilclief, Ballyhornan
* Good Quality – Ballycastle, Ballygally, Brown’s Bay, Crawfordsburn, Millisle
* Sufficient Quality – Portrush Curran (East), Waterfoot, Carnlough, Ballywalter, Newcastle
* Poor Quality – Ballyholme.