Clean sweep as Northern Ireland's beaches get all-clear
Every one of 23 strands passes tough new European quality standards
All 23 of Northern Ireland's bathing beaches have passed stringent new water quality standards - despite summer's torrential rain.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said results show Northern Ireland has some of the best bathing water quality in Europe.
Last year, Carnlough beach failed the new EU standards, but regular sampling by the Department of the Environment's Marine Division showed it had passed this year.
Fourteen of the 23 beaches met the highest EU standard, being classed as having "Excellent" water quality. A further seven were classed as having good water quality and two as sufficient.
None of Northern Ireland's bathing waters was classed as having poor water quality for 2015.
"It is very welcome for locals and visitors to our shores to see once again that beaches in the north are among some of the best in Europe for bathing water quality," Mr Durkan said. "Once again, we have had another wet summer and we all know that bathing waters can be vulnerable to heavy rainfall. In spite of this, all of our bathing waters met the much stricter European standards that were introduced this year.
"Last year we saw one of our bathing waters at Carnlough fail to meet the old, less stringent European standards, so it is particularly good to see that Carnlough has met the new, tighter standards in 2015.
"As always, there is no room for complacency, and I know that through joined-up working between government and all of its stakeholders, we will continue to maintain and, where possible, improve upon this high level of excellence."
The results were announced yesterday at the eleventh Good Beach Summit, hosted by DoE's Marine Division. The summits bring together all stakeholders from across government, non-government organisations (NGOs), community groups and the third sector who have a role in managing beaches here.
In 2015, a new EC Bathing Water Directive came into effect. It introduces standards for bacteria in water which are around twice as stringent as before. It contains four standards: Excellent, Good, Sufficient and Poor. Compliance with these standards is calculated on bathing water quality data over four years. Under the new EC Bathing Water Directive, all bathing waters should meet at least Sufficient by 2015. All of Northern Ireland's 23 identified bathing waters met at least Sufficient.
In Northern Ireland, 23 sites are formally identified under the Bathing Waters Directive and a monitoring programme has been in place since 1988. The directive aims to afford a certain level of health protection to bathers in waters where bathing is traditionally practised by a large number of people.
The waters are sampled on 20 occasions during the summer months, by the Marine Division for bacterial contamination and other indicators of pollution.
Results are circulated weekly to the coastal councils and published both locally and on the NI Direct website.
The results from the report:
Magilligan (Benone) Excellent
Magilligan (Downhill) Excellent
Portrush (Mill) West Excellent
Portrush (Curran) East Good
Portrush (Whiterocks) Excellent
Brown's Bay Excellent
Helen's Bay Excellent
Murlough Co Down Excellent
Cranfield (Cranfield Bay) Excellent