Anger erupted last night at a top seaside resort as government cutbacks mean a popular beach will be out-of-bounds to day-trippers on one of the busiest weeks of the holiday season.
A pollution incident hit Ballyholme Beach in Bangor - but although samples can be collected the all-clear can not be given until Thursday at the earliest because testing labs are closed due to "budgetary pressures".
A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said: "While there is emergency cover to investigate the incident, the DoE Marine Division labs have been closed over the holiday period this year due to budgetary pressures.
"Normal service will resume on Wednesday. It will not be possible to confirm water quality until Thursday morning as samples take approximately 24 hours to confirm."
Environmental chiefs said they were alerted on Saturday to pollution in the Cotton River which flows across Ballyholme Beach.
The incident has been traced to a farm and as a precautionary measure the DoE is advising members of the public to refrain from swimming. North Down Green Party MLA Steven Agnew said: "It is unacceptable for them to say that they will deal with it when they come back. When there is a risk to human health there should be an immediate investigation and, if possible, amelioration of the problem."
Alice Armstrong, training manager at Ballyholme Yacht Club, said it likely they would have to cancel their sea swim tonight.
"It is pretty severe, there will be a lot of disappointed people. Our sailing will go ahead but our capsize drills will be cancelled," she said.
Ards and North Down Council has been advised to erect posters warning of pollution at Ballyholme at the busiest holiday time of the year. The DoE's marine division will carry out testing on Wednesday after farm effluent was found in the Cotton River.