Although there have been improvements, however, less than half the country’s 24 designated bathing water sites met European guideline standards and two failed to meet the EC’s mandatory requirements.

The results of monitoring throughout the summer months were published by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency this week and while they do not make for overly-positive reading, they do show signs of improvement.

Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland Environment Minister, said: “I am encouraged that despite another wet summer, only two bathing waters failed to achieve the mandatory requirements for the EC’s Bathing Water Directive.

“I am also encouraged that 11 of our 24 bathing waters met the guideline standards – an improvement on last year. This more stringent standard is a prerequisite for the coveted Blue Flag Award scheme.”

The Minister highlighted that continued wet summers will bring new challenges in the management of local bathing waters.

He said: “Unusually heavy rainfall events continue to cause unexpected summertime flooding and this is making continued improvements in bathing water quality very difficult.

“However, NI Water is investing millions in sewerage system upgrades. Farmers are spending millions on improved slurry storage and handling systems.

“My Department will continue to press for the high standards of operation and maintenance so that we can all benefit from this huge investment. We have a wonderful coastline and great bathing waters which deserve high levels of protection.”

Portrush Curran (East) Strand and Portballintrae (Salmon Rock) failed to meet the Directive’s requirements.

The failure at Portrush East has been attributed to a serious pollution incident and NIEA is pursuing enforcement action with a view to prosecution.

The failure at Portballintrae is believed to be linked to inadequacies in the local sewer network. Improvements are scheduled for completion during 2010.

Sam Bond

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