20/09/2011

Cleanest NI Waters Praised

All 24 of Northern Ireland's identified beaches passed the EC Bathing Waters Directive mandatory standards for water quality in 2011.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced the news in advance of the Second Good Beach Summit and said: "These are the best results in the last 15 years equalling those achieved in 1996.

"This is good and improving news for all of our beach users and shows that investment in all areas of water quality management is paying dividends.

"However, more is needed to be done - particularly with even more demanding EU directives now on the horizon.

"That is why I am holding the Second Good Beach Summit to ensure all key players work together," he explained.

Twenty of the beaches achieved the higher guideline standards and will be eligible, on water quality criteria, to apply for the Blue Flag award in 2012.

The other four beaches still passed the requirement level but at the slightly lower mandatory level.

The comparatively dry weather in August helped coastal water quality but many of our seaside areas are still vulnerable to avoidable pollution events.

The Minister added: "Improvements will have to continue because standards for public health protection are changing. The revised Bathing Waters Directive is raising the bar and water quality standards will be even more demanding.

"By 2015 permitted bacterial levels will reduce by around 50%.

"Many of our bathing waters already achieve this standard but others will not meet the tighter standards."

In June Minister Attwood hosted a Good Beach Summit that brought together beach managers, local councils, campaign groups and others to address the issues affecting beaches and bathing waters.

An Action Plan was drawn up under the four main headings; Improve Water Quality; Improve Beach Cleanliness, Facilities, Management and Signage; Keep Public and Media Better Informed; and Support the Coastal Economy and delegates at today's Summit will be invited to ratify the Action Plan and to review early progress towards its implementation.

With increased representation from coastal community groups and beach user groups, it is intended that coastal protection efforts will be better integrated.

The Minister continued: "We have a wonderful coastline which must be protected for everyone's enjoyment. Whether you walk or swim, surf or sunbathe, bird watch or picnic, the coast should be a great day out for everyone."

(BMcC/GK)

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