There were multiple factors behind the unprecedented growth of blue-green algae in Lough Neagh last summer, DAERA Minister Andrew Muir has said.

Speaking at Stormont on Tuesday, Minister Muir pointed to a rise in water temperature, increased water clarity due to an invasive mussel species, and excessive nutrient run off into waterways.

“I am not into the blame game. I am into solving the issues here. We want to work with people to resolve the issues. There is not just one source,” the Alliance MLA said.

Minister Muir told MLAs that excessive nutrients in Lough Neagh were “mostly from agricultural sources”, although he acknowledged that wastewater infrastructure was a contributing factor too.

That is supported by recent research from the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute which found 62% of phosphorus in NI waterways comes from farms, 24% is from wastewater and 12% is due to septic tanks.

During the Assembly debate on Lough Neagh, Minister Muir was clear that there will be “no quick fixes” to the algal bloom issue and he wants “people to buy into” solutions that DAERA puts forward.

“We have a number of actions that are starting to emerge, and I want to bring those forward not only to the Executive and Assembly but to stakeholders,” he said.

Details of potential new policies were not announced on Tuesday, although the establishment of a new independent environmental protection agency appears to be high up the list of priorities.

The DAERA Minister said his officials are currently undertaking “an environmental governance review” which will examine the case for having a new body to independently scrutinise his department.

During the debate, Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott questioned if setting up another environmental body in NI will be an effective way of addressing water quality in Lough Neagh.

“I notice that other areas that have an independent environment agency, the likes of the Lake District, have blue-green algae. That has not stopped it,” he said.