At the Ocean Hero Awards are Constanze O’Toole, Irish Water; Richard Lane, Aine Lane and Proinsias O’Tuama of Ballynamona Clean Coasts Group; and Kate Harrington, Ecologist, Irish Water.

Ballynamona Clean Coast Community Group was awarded the Irish Water sponsored Think Before You Flush Raising Awareness Award yesterday at the An Taisce Clean Coasts Symposium and Ocean Hero Awards 2016 event in the Westin Hotel, Dublin.

The Think Before You Flush campaign aims to tackle the problem of sewage related litter on Ireland’s beaches. Irish Water is supporting this campaign, led by An Taisce’s Clean Coasts Programme, to highlight the problems sanitary products and other items can cause in our marine environment and our wastewater systems if they are flushed down the toilet.

Every day people flush thousands of sanitary items such as baby wipes and cotton bud sticks down the toilet instead of simply putting them in the bin. Other items that are frequently flushed down the toilet include cigarette butts and plasters. Ballynamona Clean Coast Group has developed a local Think Before You Flush campaign to educate and change the flushing behaviours of those in their local community and to date almost 200 people have signed up to the campaign. The Group has supplied information packs to all those who have signed up while the delivery of packs to local residents who have yet to sign up is ongoing. The packs highlight the idea behind the campaign and the impact small changes can make on the water quality in Ballycotton Bay.

As a result of the work carried out by the Ballynamona Clean Coast Group, a number of local businesses have also signed up including the Garryvoe and Bayview Hotels which have both committed to putting signage up in every bathroom to encourage positive flushing behaviour. Other businesses who have also signed up include Lynches Inn by the Harbour, The Schooner Bar, The Blackbird Pub and the local Garda Station in Ballycotton.

St. Colman’s Community College in Midleton has also come on board with the campaign and packs are being distributed to the households of all staff and students at the school which numbers over 1000 people.

Speaking at the Clean Coast Symposium, Kate Harrington, Ecology Specialist at Irish Water said "Ballynamona Clean Coasts Group are highly deserving of this award for their dedication to protecting their marine and coastal environments. The visual impact of sewage related litter on the environment is significant and one which deters visitors from using the beach, impacting on tourism and the local economy. It can also pose a danger to wildlife - sea birds have been found with litter items in their stomachs and turtles can mistake plastic debris for food.

Irish Water is committed to raising awareness around the protection of the marine environment from pollution and ensuring our wastewater infrastructure works effectively and sponsorship of the Think Before You Flush initiative is an integral part of this commitment."

For more details on our other conservation initiatives please visit our conversation pages.

Cork, Dublin

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