29/04/2002

Disappointing year for Northern Ireland's beaches

Minister of the Environment Dermot Nesbitt said he was "disheartened" by the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Good Beach Guide 2002 which announced a decrease in the number of clean beaches in the province.

Mr Nesbitt said: "Northern Ireland has gained recognition in the annual independent guide with nine recommended beaches. However this is a decrease of two compared with last year. We must not be complacent as three beaches failed the minimum EC water quality standard in 2001 compared to one the previous year."

The Minister said he was disappointed that the MCS, which uses DOE Environment and Heritage Service data, has reported a decline in coastal water quality this year.

He said much work needed to be done to bring Northern Ireland's bathing waters up to the standards required by the Bathing Water Directive: "In particular it is important that any necessary investment by DRD Water Service in its sewerage infrastructure and treatment works is completed in as timely a manner as possible. Northern Ireland's water environment is a great tourism asset and it is vital that we do all that we can to maintain and improve its quality for local people and visitors alike."

Only a third of its beaches, nine out of 27 sampled, are recommended in the MCS Good Beach Guide 2002 - a decrease of two on last year.

Three beaches failed the minimum EC water quality standard - these were Crawfordsburn, Ballyholme and Newcastle.

A total of 27 beaches were sampled and nine were given Good Beach Guide recommendation, which is only given to beaches that MCS consider to be "free from significant bacterial contamination."

The beaches are: Benone - Magilligan strand; Portrush Mill; Whiterocks; Portrush Curran; Waterfoot; Ballygalley; Murlough - Co. Down; Tyrella; Nicholson's Strand, South Down.

The Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) monitor 16 bathing waters formally identified under the EC Bathing Water Directive and a further 11 'non-identified' waters.

The MCS report is based on monitoring data provided by EHS. From these data, the MCS apply their own criteria which are generally based on the Directive's stricter (G) standards.

(SP)

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