Rise in beaches failing safety standards

 
Beach in Blyth, Northumberland

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The number of beaches failing to meet minimum standards for water quality has risen following last year's wet summer.

A total of 42 beaches failed to meet the minimum EU levels expected for bathing water in testing in 2012, a rise of 17 on 2011's figures.

Heavy rain and flooding is blamed for washing pollution from town and sewers down to the sea.

There was also a huge drop in the number of beaches recommended for bathing in the latest Good Beach Guide.

Good Beach Guide: Top regions*

Location

Beaches

Recommended

Lincolnshire

9

100%

Swansea

10

90%

Kent

30

83%

Suffolk

6

83%

Norfolk

15

80%

Pembrokeshire

42

79%

Hampshire

13

77%

Anglesey

26

69%

Jersey

16

69%

East Sussex

17

65%

Only 403 of the 754 UK beaches assessed were awarded the top "recommended" award for their water quality in 2012, 113 fewer beaches than in the previous guide.

The previous year, a record number of beaches were given the top award.

Ear infections

The Marine Conservation Society, which publishes the Good Beach Guide, warned swimmers could fall ill from bathing in polluted water.

It said the rain and flooding led to an increase in bacteria and viruses in bathing water, coming from a variety of sources such as agricultural and urban run-off, storm waters, plumbing misconnections, septic tanks and dog waste.

The pollution can cause ear, nose and throat infections and even gastroenteritis.

The society said there was an urgent need for improved monitoring of overflow pipes which can discharge raw sewage into rivers and the sea from sewer networks when heavy rain overloads the system with water from street drains.

Least recommended regions*

Location

Beaches

Recommended

Redcar and Cleveland

6

0%

Durham

6

0%

Cumbria

12

0%

Lancashire

14

0%

Dumfries & Galloway

7

0%

Isle of Man

19

11%

South Ayrshire

11

18%

Fife

16

25%

Conwy

11

27%

North Ayrshire

7

29%

* With more than five beaches

Action was also needed to reduce pollution from farms and urban areas, ahead of tougher EU rules on water quality coming in from 2015, it said.

Coastal pollution officer Rachel Wyatt said: "Action must be taken now. With stricter bathing water standards from 2015 and summers that appear to be getting wetter, the iconic image of people bathing off golden beaches could be at serious risk.

"There is no simple solution to sewage and animal waste reaching our seas. However if the water industry, communities and local authorities recognise that there is a problem and begin to work together to find answers that would be a significant start."

The MCS said there were some promising local partnerships working together to identify problems and start trying to fix them, but in too many places there was an "out of sight, out of mind mentality" over water pollution.

The South West saw a number of its previously recommended beaches fail last year, including Plymouth Hoe East and West, Shaldon and Exmouth in Devon, East Looe and Bude Summerleaze in Cornwall and Charmouth West in Dorset.

In the North West, just three beaches are recommended for excellent water quality in the new guide, with popular beaches at Blackpool North and South failing to meet even the basic mandatory standards.

But Blackpool central and nearby St Anne's and St Anne's North beaches improved their water quality to reach the mandatory standard last year.

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 172.

    We cannot throw all the blame onto the weather, surely. What about all the rubbish and other perishables that are chucked into the oceans from passing ships, and jettisoned aviation and marine fuel and oil? I have only to stroll along any beach at the tideline to see what has been washed up from these sources. It is only man who has created all the filth that finds its way into the sea.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 132.

    A lot of people here seem not to have read the article - it's about water quality - not whether the beach itself is clean or not. I agree about not littering the beach etc, but being made ill by the water is a much bigger risk.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 117.

    I live in a seaside town. There is no such thing as a clean beach or a dirty beach. Tides and currents move pollution around quite rapidly. What is a clean beach one day can be contaminated the next. Nature is one force to be reckoned with, selfish, arrogant, irresponsible day-trippers and dog owners are another. Please take your litter and dog-mess home with you.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 64.

    If you want clean beaches, then water charges need to go up to build the sewage treatment plants needed to deal with this situation.

    There's no so such thing as free lunch.

    I went to Brighton two weeks ago and people leave their fag ends and and rubbish on the beach. Disgusting!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 51.

    Of all the things that public money is spent on, keeping beaches clean isn't one that should be high on the list. We have much bigger worries at the moment.

    Surely the people who use beaches should keep them clean... but then they're the ones that leave dog poo and litter all over them.

    Wouldn't it be nice if people looked after their own surroundings instead of letting someone else do it?

 

Comments 5 of 8

 

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