Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Quarry waters to be dyed black to discourage swimming

River Roe
River Roe

Quarry owners are being offered black dye in a desperate bid to stop people from swimming at abandoned sites.

Concerns have mounted following the deaths of four people in just two months in rivers and a disused quarry across Northern Ireland.

Armagh Council, which has more than 180 quarries in its district area, has offered dye to the owners of five quarries which the council has identified as "concerning".

"In the last year, Armagh City and District Council's environmental health department carried out a desk top survey of over 180 quarries in the district," a spokeswoman for the council said yesterday.

"While none of the disused quarries met the legal definition of 'being a public health nuisance', officers did have concerns about five of these.

The owners of these five have been contacted and offered signage and dye.

"Environmental health (officers) have also been liaising and exchanging information with the local PSNI." The move follows an urgent appeal from former Environment Minister Alex Attwood earlier this month. On July 9, Mr Attwood wrote to Northern Ireland's 26 councils urging them to consider dying the water in local quarries.

A similar move to discolour the coral water at a disused quarry known as the Blue Lagoon in Derbyshire, England, last month has proved effective.

In June a Saturday afternoon swim in a disused quarry on the outskirts of Annalong ended in tragedy when 15-year-old schoolboy Kevin O'Hare drowned. Colin Polland, a father-of-two from Co Down, also lost his life trying to save the boy.

Yesterday, hundreds queued outside the house of Co Antrim schoolboy Steven Mitchell, who was laid to rest following an emotional funeral service. The 15-year-old died after he went into the River Roe in Co Londonderry on Thursday to retrieve a ball.

A funeral service will be held this afternoon for James Kincaid, the province's fourth drowning victim in two months. The father-of-two was swimming in the Strule River in 28C temperatures at the edge of Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone, on Saturday afternoon.

Relatives of the 34-year-old – who will be laid to rest following a 2pm funeral service at Newtownstewart Presbyterian Church – have urged people not to swim in rivers or disused quarries.

Councils across Northern Ireland are now carrying out safety checks of quarries in their areas.

Of the 16 councils contacted yesterday, the vast majority had carried out quarry inspections.

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