September 18, 2021

Open water swimming is increasingly popular in the East Antrim.

A report presented to members of the local authority’s operations committee on Monday evening said there had been an increase in groups and individuals swimming in the area and at the Hazel Bank in Newtownby.

The report notes that the increase was due to epilepsy.

The DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs) has asked District Councils to nominate sites for participation in the Northern Ireland Bathing Water Survey.

The last survey in 2017 did not identify any areas of the borough that were large enough swimmers.

Sites must include more than 45 bath or 100 batch users. Public consultation is required before approval.

Open water swimming was one of the council’s proposed activities to encourage residents to exercise more. ‘Parkrons’ and ‘Sophie to 5k’ runs have also been encouraged.

Last month, swimmers were told not to go to sea for two days after a storm due to possible sewage overflow. The advice was given by Dera in response to concerns over water quality at Fisherman’s Well in Carrickfergus.

Carrick Ferguson Councilor Cheryl Brownlee highlighted water quality at a meeting of the Mid and East Antrim’s Direct Services Committee.

He told the meeting that he had been approached by several people who were concerned about the quality of water in the Fishermen’s Well.

The DAERA says Fishermen’s Cove in Carrefourgis is not monitored as part of its annual bathing water program.

Responding to the DUP councilor’s concerns, the DEERA said: “Carrefourgus is an urban area where wastewater collection systems are specifically designed to flow during and after prolonged or heavy rains. ۔

“In the event of heavy rains, the collection system may not be able to cope with all the flow received. Part of the contents of the collection system may flow into the waterway in stormy conditions.

DAERA confirmed that a review and formal consultation on bathing water would take place within the next 12-18 months.

Sites will be expected to display appropriate signals and those responsible will have to remove waste, provide advice on contamination incidents and, if necessary, issue temporary advice against bathing.

If the bath water is poorly rated, there should be signs that advise the public against bathing and explain why the bathing site is not recommended.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.

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