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Good Beach Guide 2010

02 June 2010 8:04

According to the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Beach Guide 2010, 8 beaches out of the 24 tested in Northern Ireland (one more than last year) have been recommended for excellent water quality with Ballycastle and Magilligan Downhill beaches jumping from basic passes last year, to guideline this year.

The impact, however, from last year’s downpours is still being felt with 2 beaches, Portballintrae, which was not tested last year* and Portrush Curran East Strand, failing in this years guide. The failure at Portrush Curran East Strand has been linked to a serious pollution incident which is not attributed to NI Water.

Across the UK, the number of recommended beaches increased by 5% from last year and the number of failures as a whole has decreased. Testing, which took place between June and September 2009, coincided with an extremely wet summer. Furthermore, data from the Met Office states that the summers 2007-2009 combined were the wettest since 1914.

Commenting on the MCS guide, Angela Halpenny, Head of Environmental Regulation at Northern Ireland Water said,

“In Northern Ireland, 24 beaches were tested, of which 3 received guideline and 8 received a recommendation; an increase from 7 in 2009. However, two beaches failed in this year’s guide, as opposed to one last year. While we are taking steps to improve our wastewater systems and progress is starting to be seen, we do acknowledge that there is still work to be done.

“NI Water welcomes the MCS’s comments that Northern Ireland’s results continue to suffer from agricultural land run-off and the years of underinvestment in the sewage infrastructure.

“Weather also plays a major role in the quality of bathing water. During periods of heavy rainfall, the sewerage system can overflow, which it is designed to do, to alleviate out of sewer flooding. Last summer’s high rainfall increased the frequency of overflows and run-off from agricultural land and urban areas.

“It is unfortunate that 2 beaches failed, however, it is important to note that the number of beaches tested this year increased, and Ballyholme, which failed last year, has passed this year following a £3.5million project to improve the sewerage network.

“As one of Northern Ireland’s most important environmental stewards, we invest significant resources and measures in safeguarding it. Improving the wastewater infrastructure in Northern Ireland is a major priority for NI Water and by 2013 we plan to invest in excess of £300 million on improvements to our sewerage network system and wastewater treatment works.”

Another factor that impacts on bathing water quality is when inappropriate items, such as cotton buds, nappies, wipes and sanitary items are flushed down the toilet. These items often make their way through the sewerage system and onto our beaches, or cause serious blockages that can lead to the operation of emergency overflows. Wastewater Treatment Works and sewerage systems are not designed to deal with such objects, therefore NI Water’s advice is to ‘Bag it and Bin it’ – don’t flush it.

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