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  • Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

New bathing water locations being examined as open water swimming becomes increasingly popular


Open water swimming has become increasingly popular at Jordanstown and Antrim Loughshore Parks, Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have been told.


A report to be presented to members of the local authority’s Operations Committee on Monday evening says there has been an increase in groups and individuals swimming at these locations and at Hazelbank in Newtownabbey.


The report has noted this increase during the Covid pandemic.


DAERA (the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) has asked district councils for nominations for locations to be included in a review of Northern Ireland’s bathing waters.


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. A public consultation would have to be carried out before approval.


Open water swimming was among activities suggested by the council to encourage residents to do more exercise. ‘Parkruns’ and ‘Couch to 5k’ runs have also been encouraged.


Last month, sea swimmers were told not to bathe in the sea for two days after a storm due to potential overflow of wastewater.


That was the advice given by 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.


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


DAERA has said that Fisherman’s Quay in Carrickfergus is not currently monitored as part of the annual bathing waters programme.


In response to the DUP councillor’s concerns, DAERA stated:


“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.”


DAERA confirmed that a review and formal consultation on bathing waters will be taking place within the next 12-18 months.


Sites would be expected to have appropriate signage displayed and those responsible would have to remove waste, advise of pollution incidents and issue temporary advice against bathing if necessary.


If bathing water receives a poor classification, signs must be displayed advising the public against bathing and stating why the site is not recommended for bathing.