22/05/2009

NI Beach Quality Drops

Only 30% of Northern Ireland beaches have been recommended for bathing in this year's Good Beach Guide.

While Benone Beach in Co Londonderry, (pictured here by Brian McCalden) was a top performer, other well known shorelines were slammed.

The Marine Conservation Society (MSC) recommendation was given to just seven of 23 tested beaches in the province - three beaches less than last year.

According to the society years of under investment in the sewage infrastructure has had a detrimental affect.

Beaches suffered from heavy storm run-off carrying fertilisers and animal waste from farms into the river system.

Ballyholme Beach in Bangor, Co Down, failed to meet the minimum legal water quality standard while 12 beaches received a basic pass.
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A spokesperson from MCS said: "Heavy summer rains caused a significant dip in water quality but the province is now undergoing a £420m sewerage investment programme which MCS hopes will start bringing improvements in the near future."

UK wide the number of beaches recommended for swimming fell a record 16.7% year on year that's 370 beaches out of 777 tested, down from 444 last year.

Angela Halpenny, of NI Water said: "While we are taking steps to improve our wastewater systems and progress is starting to be seen, we do acknowledge that there is still work to be done.

"Weather plays a major role in the quality of bathing water. During periods of heavy rainfall, the sewage system can overflow, which it is designed to do, to alleviate the sewer flooding.

"Last summer's high rainfall increased the frequency of overflows and run-off from agricultural land and urban areas."

Ms Halpenny said £3.5m sewage improvement works are underway which will contribute to improvements in the bathing water quality in the area.

(GK)

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