Councils demand 'short, medium and longer term plans to improve water quality of Lough Neagh'

The Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and four councils bordering Lough Neagh have demanded a meeting with DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs), Department for Infrastructure ministers and chief executive of NI Water to seek action over blue green algae.
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In a presentation to Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors at a meeting of the council’s Operations Committee, on Monday evening, Karen Smyth, NILGA’s head of policy and governance, said the local authorities want to discuss “short, medium and longer term plans to improve the water quality of Lough Neagh and to reduce the risk of further algae blooms”.

The NILGA representative told councillors the association became involved in response to a number of council motions seeking action over blue green algae which was visible in Lough Neagh last summer.

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Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors supported a motion for a working group of relevant agencies to be established to address the Lough Neagh “crisis” and to write to DAERA and its agencies to come in person to a full council meeting to “show their actions on the current crisis”.

Lough Neagh. Pic: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.Lough Neagh. Pic: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Lough Neagh. Pic: Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Other local authorities bordering Lough Neagh are Mid-Ulster, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, and Lisburn and Castlereagh.

Karen Smyth told the Operations Committee: “The intention is to keep the pressure on as much as we can. We need to see short-term action which we are not seeing any movement on. Algae is already starting to appear. We need to move beyond proposals to see action.”

She went on to say local authorities on the lough shore have agreed there needs to be “a government lead” on the blue green algae issue and to seek support from colleagues at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Belfast City Council and Causeway Coast and Glens for discussions on environmental improvements.

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“Councils need to be able to reassure constituents that local government has done all it can to get things moving. We await the NI Executive’s approach.”

Macedon Ulster Unionist Councillor Robert Foster expressed concern that money may not be available.

At a meeting last month, NI Water offered an assurance to Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors over supply sourced from Lough Neagh saying that it “requires enhanced treatment but the water is safe and safe to drink”.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter