Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Ballyholme beach fails EU water quality testing

Housing: Apartments/Ballyholme View, in Bangor, Co Down

Bangor beach has failed to meet European water quality standards following testing this summer, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has revealed.

Ballyholme beach was the only one out of 24 bathing beaches monitored across Northern Ireland to fall below standards set by the European Union’s Bathing Water Directive.

The rest met the mandatory standard, and 10 of them were also described as ‘excellent’ after meeting the more stringent guideline standard.

NI Water blamed heavy rain and increased run-off for the failure of Ballyholme beach and promised that a £3.5m project to improve the sewerage network should improve water quality.

Councillor Marsden Fitzsimons, who represents constituents in the Ballyholme area, said he was “very anxious” for the problem to be brought up to standard.

“This problem only seems to arise when there is a storm or heavy rain. However, at other times the quality of the water is very good,” he said.

“NI Water has said they will help improve things but the whole problem goes back 30 years with a lack of infrastructure.

“We’re now paying the price of neglect of our sewerage systems.”

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson said: “Heavy and sustained rainfall affects bathing water quality as it increases overflows from sewer networks and run off from agricultural land.

“Heavy rain can also draw attention to deficiencies in our sewerage infrastructure and NIEA continues to press NI Water to give a high priority to these issues. NIEA is working closely with all industrial sectors, especially the agriculture industry, to control all polluting discharges and minimise run off.”

Waters on the 24 beaches identified as bathing beaches are sampled 20 times over the course of the summer for bacterial contamination and other indicators of pollution.

George Butler, director of asset management with NI Water, said he was pleased to see an improvement in this year’s bathing water results, despite the disappointment at Ballyholme.

“Whilst these results demonstrate that our investment in wastewater systems is making a difference, we acknowledge that there is still work to be done,” he said.

He added that NI Water planned to invest £490m by 2010 on improvements to the sewerage network system and wastewater treatment works.

Mr Butler said pollution can also be caused when inappropriate objects are flushed down the toilet, including cotton buds, nappies and sanitary items.

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