Surfers Against Sewage fighting for first time EU bathing water designation at Portballintrae
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) campaigners and local surfers hand delivered a petition to the HQ of the Department of Environment Northern Ireland (DOENI) today, 17th November, when this years bathing water results were issued. SAS’s Love Your Beach campaign petition, with more than 450 signatures, calls for the popular yet undesignated recreational waters at Portballintrae’s Runkerry Strand to receive full EU bathing water designation.
In February 2009 SAS launched their Love Your Beach campaign, which will enable recreational water users to apply for ‘bathing water’ designation for their recreational water sites, providing them with extra protection from poor water facilities under current legislation.
Currently recreational waters have little or no protection, but the step up to designated bathing waters will see recreational water site’s facilities dramatically improve. Getting a beach classified as an ‘EU bathing water’ can be a sure-fire way of winning environmental improvements, which can help make a beach cleaner and safer for everyone to use. Throughout the summer, beaches designated as bathing waters benefit from weekly water quality testing, improved litter management and better safety facilities that help the public better enjoy their time spent at the beach.
In 2006 SAS had a major campaign success with Europe’s legislators agreeing to strengthen the EU Bathing Water Directive. This included tighter water quality standards that will lower public health risks, and clearer signage that will better inform water users about real time water quality which will be phased in from 2010 to 2015.
However the EU rejected a bid by SAS to see the term ‘bathers’ widened to include recreational water users, as they were fearful of the costs involved of extending the scope of the Directive. Nevertheless, if we can show groups of recreational water users using the Portballintrae beach regularly during the bathing season (May to September) then we might be able to encourage the local authority to support it being designated as a new ‘bathing water’.
SAS now have over 450 people committed to using Portballintrae’s Runkerry Strand for recreational water activity on a regular basis. Those 450 have committed to using Runkerry Strand more than 10,000 times a bathing season. Tomorrow looks set to lead us one step closer to a landmark victory for the area.
Portballintrae's Runkerry Strand and the sea are heavily used by surfers, waveriders and bathers alike, both in and out of the bathing season. It supports a strong local community that love the area and it deserves to be designated a bathing water.
Ruth Carruthers, SAS Campaign Officer
I've been surfing at Runkerry Strand for almost 30 years now, and its one of my favourite surfing locations on the North Antrim Coast. It has more quality surfing days than any other beach on the north coast it's not uncommon now, to see more than 80 people in the water at any one time. It would be such an asset locally to the area if the beach became designated as water quality issues could be addressed and improved, and it would really benefit tourism along this stretch of coast.
Andy Hill, SAS's Northern Ireland Rep