Sea swimmers advised after water quality concerns

East Antrim swimmers are being advised not to bathe in the sea for two days after a storm due to potential overflow of wastewater.

That was the advice given by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in response to concerns over water quality at Fisherman’s Quay in Carrickfergus.

The issue of water quality was highlighted at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim’s Direct Services Committee by Carrickfergus Councillor Cheryl Brownlee.

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She told the meeting that she had been contacted by a number of people who were concerned about the water quality at Fisherman’s Quay.

Water quality advice has been given to east Antrim's sea-swimmers.

In response to her concerns raised with DAERA, Cllr Brownlee was advised: “Fisherman’s Quay in Carrickfergus is not currently monitored as part of the annual bathing waters programme.

“As we do not currently test the water quality at Fisherman’s Quay in Carrickfergus, I would not be able to say if it was safe to swim or not.

“Carrickfergus is an urbanised area where wastewater collection systems are designed to overflow especially during and after periods of prolonged or heavy rainfall.

“In the event of heavy rainfall, a collection system may not be able to deal with all the flow received. A portion of the contents of the collection system may overflow to a waterway under storm conditions.

“This is why there is general advice not to bathe during or up to two days after such rain. Unfortunately the Department is unable to routinely carry out sampling on request.”

DAERA also said: “A review and formal consultation on our bathing waters will be taking place within the next 12 -18 months.”

In a social media post, Cllr Brownlee said: “Based on ths advice, Council are seeking new signage for display at Fisherman’s Quay so that the public can make better informed decisions when choosing to swim or engage in outdoor recreation in that area, especially after heavy rainfall.”

The council’s Operations Director Philip Thompson said that Fisherman’s Quay is not a “designated bathing water”.

In Mid and East Antrim, these are Ballygally Beach, Larne, Browns Bay, Islandmagee and Carnlough Beach, which he said are “regularly checked”.

He went on to say that if there is “significant use” at Fisherman’s Quay, it should be included in the “monitoring scheme”.

He added that he would get the “current situation checked”,

Cllr Brownlee asked for it to be included.

by Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter