INSPECTORS are working with businesses in Balloo Industrial estate to combat the pollution of Bangor’s historic Ward Park ponds.

Industrial estates upstream have been blamed for the ‘greater proportion of the historic incidents’ in Ward Park leading to North Down MLA Alex Easton issuing fresh calls for tougher enforcement action.

The latest pollution statistics were revealed in response to a written question from Mr Easton who has voiced fresh concerns about the impact on local wildlife at this popular park.   

Statistics from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency show that 13 pollution incidents were reported over the past three years with five pollution incidents reported in 2020, a further five incidents in 2021 and three in 2022.

However, the Agency has stated that of the 13 reported incidents, only five were confirmed pollution incidents and they were assessed as having a ‘low severity’ environmental impact.

Of the five incidents where water pollution was confirmed, ‘three related to grey discolouration of the water column, one to the presence of oil and one where white foam on the surface of the waterway was confirmed’.

The NIEA believes that ‘from the evidence available  the greater proportion of the historic incidents observed in Ward Park relate to operations being carried out by businesses within the industrial estates upstream’.

The agency stated it ‘continues to carry out a systematic risk identification and action programme in respect of the approximately 200 industrial and commercial premises operating in the river catchment upstream of Ward Park’.

In a bid to stop pollution incidents, the NIEA stated its inspectors and its Pollution Prevention Team have been engaging with businesses in the Balloo Industrial Estate and a number have carried out work to remove potential sources of pollution or work to minimise the risk of pollution incidents from occurring. However, voicing his pollution concerns, Mr Easton said: “It is truly worrying that when we should be doing all we can to keep Ward Park’s ponds free from pollution that we see 13 incidents reported over the last three years in Ward Park, with five confirmed incidents of pollution being put into our rivers.

“This is not acceptable as they are a danger to our already struggling wildlife but also a danger to the general population who enjoy visiting the park.”

Said Mr Easton: “I believe that there needs to be a campaign to explain what constitutes pollution and to raise awareness of what the consequences can be to our wildlife and human consumption if these leak into our water courses.

“It is also time to have those who deliberately put pollutants into our rivers publicly named and that there are harsher penalties and fines for those caught polluting our lakes, ponds and rivers.”