New EU standards for bathing water quality
Beaches in Blackpool, Ilfracombe, Hastings and Margate are among those set to fail new safety standards for bathing water quality in 2015, despite bathing water quality at public swimming spots being cleaner than ever last year.
Beaches monitored for bathing water quality
Water at the 417 bathing spots monitored by the Environment Agency (EA) in 2014 was cleaner than ever recorded, with 99.5% meeting standards for intestinal enterococci and E. coli, faecal bacteria that cause eye and ear infections and gastroenteritis. In 1988, a third of swimming spots failed the tests for bathing water quality.
But the data published by the EA on Friday show that authorities will have to redouble efforts to make all public swimming areas safe under the revised EU Bathing Water Directive, which comes into force this summer bathing season, which opens on Friday.
Beaches including Blackpool Central and North, Clacton, Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, Hastings, Lyme Regis Church Cliff Beach, Morecambe South, Lancing and Walpole Bay at Margate are among those predicted to fall foul of the stricter rules this summer.
The new European standards will cut acceptable levels of harmful bacteria in half. The change will bring the UK’ standards, which have stayed the same since the late 1970s, in line with advice from the World Heath Organisation.
Failure to meet standards for bathing water quality will mean warning signs must be erected, potentially harming tourism, and action must be taken to improve the water quality.
The weather is also a major factor in how many beaches will fail or pass, with wet summers causing pollution to peak.
Untreated sewage and waste from farm animals is washed in the sea and other waterways during periods of heavy rain, when sewage outflows are overtopped. Further, domestic toilet systems are often connected directly to storm water drains, without passing through the sewage system.
Since 1990, water companies have invested £2bn on improvements to the nation’s sewage systems to protect the aquatic environment.
The EA said last year it had predicted 50 spots would fail, indicating its efforts to solve the problem were working. But Ed Mitchell, EA executive director of environment and business, said further upgrades were required.
“Bathing water quality at English beaches is better than it’s ever been after it reached record levels last year, and we are working hard with others to improve it further still,” he said.
The EA told the Guardian last year that many of the large infrastructure improvements required were now complete and the job of making house-to-house improvements may prove more difficult in order to eradicate health concerns for all bathers.
Water companies to invest
Water companies will invest £350m in upgrading 3,728 miles of river and 50 bathing spots over the next five years. Swimmers can check the daily levels of bacteria at their favourite spots on the EA’s bathing water quality website.
Dr Laura Foster, pollution manager at the Marine Conservation Society said: “Over the last four years we have seen a decreasing number of beaches predicted to fail the new bathing water directive. The directive … is roughly twice as stringent as the previous directive which used research from the 1970s.
“We have been delighted to see that the number of beaches predicted to fail has significantly decreased over the last few years on the back of improvements and investment into bathing water quality, but there is still more to be done at a number of beaches.”
The beaches expected to fail new EU standards for bathing water quality:
Allonby, Blackpool Central, Blackpool North, Budleigh Salterton, Burnham Jetty North, Clacton (Groyne 41), Cleveleys, Fleetwood, Hastings, Haverigg, Henleaze Lake, Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, Instow, Lancing, Beach Green, Lyme Regis Church Cliff Beach, Morecambe South, Mothecombe, Porth, Porthluney, Seaton (Cornwall), Silloth, Spittal, Staithes, Teignmouth Town, Walpole Bay, Margate.