Councillors call for action on “out of control” algae impacting beaches & businesses on North Coast
Causeway Coast and Glens councillors have expressed concern about the recent blooms of blue-green algae in the area.
The problem has impacted a range of water bodies, with the River Bann’s quality affected and local beaches forced to close.
At a meeting of the council’s Environmental Services Committee on Tuesday, September 12, Causeway Alliance Councillor Peter McCully proposed a motion noting the “detrimental impact these blooms have had on local businesses”.
Cllr McCully said that the algae “has knock on impact for businesses relying on customers visiting the beach”, adding that he is “deeply concerned that the algae is a deterrent to people visiting seaside towns”.
He also emphasised the “biodiversity impacts”, and highlighted that water is “effectively sludge” in some places.
According to Cllr McCully, the problem is “out of control” and the response from the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Environment Agency is “not sufficient”.
As such, he called for “immediate action to prevent a repeat of this summer”.
The motion asks DAERA to swiftly convene a cross party meeting between affected council areas to discuss the issue and to develop an action plan to address it. It also calls for the establishment of an independent Environmental Protection Agency in line with New Decade, New Approach commitments.
The motion was seconded by Causeway Alliance Alderman Richard Stewart, who described it as “a very worrying situation” with a “huge impact on businesses and wildlife”.
Causeway DUP Alderman Sharon McKillop questioned the need for an independent Environmental Protection Agency, stressing that the focus should be on “actions and outcomes” not on “setting up new structures and governance”.
As such, she proposed an amendment removing the call to establish the Environmental Protection Agency, but this failed at a vote.
Cllr McCully stressed that the motion does call for immediate action and that the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency is a long term focus.
Bann Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Bateson said the algae is “very concerning from an environmental perspective" and occured at “a busy time of year for tourism”.
He proposed an amendment to the motion to call for the Environment Agency to respond to the council on action taken against the algae. This was accepted.