Sewage problems mean local beaches unlikely to be recommended for bathing

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SOME of the most popular beaches in the borough are unlikely to be officially recognised as high quality bathing areas because of problems with sewage discharge.

The beaches, mostly in Bangor but including Donaghadee, are all close to combined storm overflows (CSO) which means in periods of heavy rainfall sewage can bypass a treatment plant and discharge directly into the sea.

Councillors attending a recent meeting of Ards and North Down’s Community and Wellbeing Committee were told that six local beaches would not be candidates for what is known as Designated Bathing Water status as their water quality would be unlikely to meet stringent standards.

The beaches are at:

  • Donaghadee, where there are two CSOs within a 400m section of beach.
  • Brompton, where there is a CSO right beside the beach.
  • Skipperstone, which is affected by the CSO at Brompton and by an ovefrlow at Bregenz House.
  • Seacourt, which is right beside a CSO.
  • Bangor Bay, where effluent emissions have been greatly reduced since the construction of a storm overflow tank under the car park at Bregenz House.
  • Seapark, where there are issues with human E Coli coming from the river and which remains unresolved despite extensive testing of properties.

A council officer said the general advice for people swimming in these areas, is not to go into the water for two or three days after periods of heavy rain.

Ards and North Down already has seven designated bathing waters, the highest number of any council in Northern Ireland – they are at Helen’s Bay, Crawfordsburn, Ballyholme, Groomsport, Millisle, Ballywater and Cloughey.

The officer told councillors that it was hoped that another could be designated at Knockinelder beach, near Portaferry, but because it is managed by the National Trust, an application would have to come from the charity.

The Department for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs is currently carrying out a major review of bathing waters in Northern Ireland and had launched a public consultation into the possible identification of new bathing waters. That consultation ended on April 8 and Ards and North Down Council did not make a submission.

However, the committee agreed to write to the Minister to ask for an increase in the areas where bathing water quality is tested and the time of year when testing occurs.

Councillor Janice MacArthur said the problem of effluent in popular bathing waters is a ‘big issue’ in the borough.

“Sea swimming is very popular and the effluent is there not just when there is heavy rainfall,” she said. “We have seen it in July in Donaghadee.

“We wouldn’t want the people who are doing this for their health to be putting themselves at any risk at all,” she added.