Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Wrong to say water is the worst in Europe

Although I appreciate the sentiment of Malachy McAnespie's letter printed on April 3, I do have to point out a factual inaccuracy in the original report.

Although Newcastle's designated bathing water was the worst of all 23 sampled in Northern Ireland during 2012 (being the only bathing water that failed) I have no idea how it came about as being labelled the worst in Europe. The bathing water remit of the Marine Conservation Society currently only extends to the UK, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, so we would never have said it was the worst in Europe as we simply don't have the knowledge to make that sort of comparison.

Newcastle's bathing water quality is affected by pollution coming from a variety of sources including dilute untreated sewage overflowing from sewers, livestock waste being washed off grazing land, and bird and dog mess being washed off roofs and roads into surface drains.

However, on a positive note, I know that Northern Ireland Water has invested a significant amount of money in its network of sewers in the Newcastle area, as well as upgrading the sewage treatment works. Furthermore, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency has undertaken a lot of reconnaissance within the catchment behind Newcastle that drains into the sea, and it has identified a number of likely sources of pollution.

Dr Robert Keirle

pollution programme manager

The Marine Conservation Society

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