Emergency action has been launched by the Department of Environment to tackle the swathe of storm debris and waste washed ashore from Lough Neagh in the aftermath of one of the wettest winters on record.
A large volume of rubbish has been deposited by flooding in the key nature reserves around Lough Neagh.
The issue was raised last week at the Northern Ireland Assembly by Alliance MLA Anne Lo.
Minister for the Environment Mark H Durkan said: “The prevailing south westerly wind direction means that waste floating on Lough Neagh tends to be washed up on those nature reserves located around the north east corner of the Lough, such as Rea’s Wood and Randalstown Forest which are managed by NIEA.
“The recent strong winds and exceptional rainfall with resulting high Lough levels have driven this waste further up the shore than usual.”
“Throughout the year, my officials from NIEA carry out regular patrols of the sites they manage during which they collect litter. They also arrange periodic volunteer efforts to collect and dispose of larger items which have been washed ashore. The recent flooding has, however, hampered these efforts, particularly at Rea’s Wood Nature Reserve where access has been restricted.
“In response to the large volume of waste and debris which has been deposited at its Lough Neagh Nature Reserves, NIEA officers have contacted a number of relevant bodies to discuss the co-ordination of ‘action days’ to tackle this issue. These include:the Forest Service; the Lough Neagh Partnership; the Six Mile Water Rivers Trust; Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful; The Conservation Volunteers NI and the Association of Rivers Trusts.My officials will monitor the water levels at these sites and will continue to engage with these bodies to arrange co-ordinated ‘action days’.”