Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone: Water quality report demands action on NI's lakes and rivers

SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone has said the Executive must act following the publication of the Auditor General’s report on water quality in Northern Ireland’s lakes and rivers.
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Dorinnia Carville’s report warns that European targets for improving water quality in Northern Ireland’s rivers and lakes by 2027 will not be met.

Mr McGlone said: “The report is a stark reminder of not only the poor quality of the water in our lakes and rivers, but the failure to improve the situation. The Auditor General is quite clear that the targets set down for improving our water quality by 2027 will not be met and the water quality in our rivers has not improved since 2015, with less than one-third having good ecological status in 2021. In 2015 around 24% of our lakes were classified as having good ecological statue, in 2021 only 14% of our lakes achieved that status.

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“When the chemical status of the water is included, none of our lakes or rivers is classified as good overall status. As we have seen in Lough Neagh, the continuing issues around water quality are, at least, partly attributable to the accumulation of excess nutrients over long periods.

Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone. Credit: SubmittedMid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone. Credit: Submitted
Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone. Credit: Submitted
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“The report points out that attempts by the public sector to manage some of the more potentially damaging agricultural practices have not been effective. Only one per cent of farms in the North is inspected each year by the NI Environment Agency. Additionally, while the number of pollution incidents linked to NI Water decreased by 43% between 2017 and 2023, that still amounted to 572 pollution incidents during that time. We are also the only region of the UK where sampling of wastewater treatment is pre-announced.

“The new Executive needs to take this issue more seriously. We need investment in our sewage and wastewater infrastructure. There needs to be greater monitoring of agricultural practices and wastewater treatment, and enforcement where breaches are identified.

“As the SDLP has repeatedly argued, a key step forward would be the establishment of a fully independent Environmental Protection Agency. The Executive needs to act, with purpose and investment, to greatly improve the quality of our water for the sake of our environment, our wildlife and our future generations.”

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