A beach summit was held last week by the Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, to discuss measures to improve the worrying quality of some of Northern Ireland’s beaches.
It emerged last month that Ballyholme beach remains one of the three beaches in Northern Ireland to fail to reach the European minimum legal water quality standard.
Although the publication of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Good Beach Guide last month showed an improving overall picture, water quality in Northern Ireland is still below the UK average.
The ‘Good Beach Summit’, hosted by the Environment Minister, saw key players from government and the voluntary sector come together to discuss coastal pollution issues for the first time.
During the event, the Minister announced he was willing to implement a plastic bag levy across Northern Ireland. He also pledged to introduce a Marine Litter Strategy and Action Plan.
MCS’ Pollution Programme Manager Dr Robert Keirle gave a sobering overview of the pressures facing Northern Ireland’s beaches and the public health implications for beachgoers.
“The poor state of bathing water in the region is a direct legacy of years of chronic under-investment within Northern Ireland’s sewerage systems,” he said.
“The bare facts are not just under-investment, there is also the added impact of hundreds of combined sewer overflows across the region, plus the problem of rain washing animal waste from fields into rivers and coastal waters.”
Mr Atwood said: “We are now mapping out a clear way forward to improve beaches in Northern Ireland, pushing limits and thinking radically.
“I will reconvene the Good Beach Summit in the third week of September. I want results and I will push myself and all of us to get more results.”