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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Blue-green algae identified at new swimming spot

Lough Neagh

Visitors to Antrim Loughshore have been asked to report any sightings of blue-green algae bloom at a new swimming spot.

The council issued warnings last month that blue/green algae blooms were detected in the water at Rea’s Wood, Antrim Loughshore, Cranfield Point/jetty and along the Toome Canal.

Reidents were advised on social media:

“This can occur temporarily during prolonged periods of sunshine. Children, adults and animals should avoid contact with the algae and surrounding water as this can produce toxins that cause skin rashes, eye irritation, vomiting, fever, diarrhoea and muscle pain.”

In October 2021, the council nominated Antrim and Jordanstown Loughshore Parks (including Hazelbank) as formally identified bathing waters as part of the review of Bathing Waters 2022/2023 being carried out by Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Councillors were told at a meeting of the local authority last month the Department has “completed its evaluation and survey of candidate sites and preliminary criteria for identification has been met at Antrim Loughshore (Rea’s Wood)”.

Councillors said previously open water swimming has become increasingly popular at Jordanstown and Antrim Lough Shore Parks with an rise in groups and individuals swimming at these locations  during the Covid pandemic.

Previously, no areas in the borough were identified as having swimmers in sufficient numbers to qualify as designated bathing waters during the last review in 2017. Sites must have more than 45 bathers or 100 beach users to be included.

There is no requirement by the council to provide changing facilities at a nominated bathing water location. The council must ensure that where changing facilities are available, signage must be put in place.

Signs must also be placed In the event of pollution incidents or during “exceptional weather” conditions that could be considered a “risk to human health”and where necessary, remove any waste.

If a bathing water receives a poor classification, warning signs must advise swimmers against bathing.

A spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said:

“The council does not have responsibility for bathing water quality. The Quality of Bathing Water Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2008 sets quality standards for bathing water.

“Bathing water quality is monitored by Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). One of its responsibilities is to ensure coastal waters are of  high enough quality for the general public to bathe in, any water samples are collected and analysed by DAERA.

“When bathing water quality fails to meet a certain standard, Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) carries out an investigation. DAERA will liaise with the council regarding the water quality and caution signs will be erected by the council at major points of public access providing the appropriate advice to swimmers, dog walkers etc.

“NIEA are encouraging everyone to get involved in citizen science and help monitor blooms of blue-green algae to help protect from public health risks through The Bloomin’ Algae App.”


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