Are you swimming in 'it'? - Worrying drop in beach water quality

First published in News

The Marine Conservation Society has said it was a bad year for Britain’s bathing beaches as one of the wettest summers on record led to increased sewage in the sea.

The society has also recommended fewer beaches for excellent water quality due to a worrying drop in the number of beaches around the country being recommended for their excellent bathing water quality in the society's annual ‘Good Beach Guide’.

The MCS has recommended only 403 of the 754 UK bathing beaches tested in 2012 as having excellent water quality. That’s just over half, and 113 fewer beaches than were recommended last year.

Forty two beaches failed to meet even a minimum European standard, or equivalent, for bathing water quality – 17 more than in last year’s Guide.

The society says that relentless rain and flooding in many parts of the country led to an increase in the amount of bacteria and viruses ending up in our bathing waters. This type of pollution can originate from a variety of sources such as agricultural and urban run-off, storm waters, misconnected plumbing, septic tanks and dog faeces.

Sewage and animal waste is full of viruses and bacteria and most water users won’t be aware that this type of pollution can increase the chance of them going home with an ear, nose or throat infection, or even gastroenteritis.

Compared to other areas Cornwall fares quite well, however Bude Summerleaze, Mounts Bay Wherry Town, Seaton, East Looe all failed to reach the most basic standards.

In total the number of beaches recommend by the guide fell from 68 to 51, out of 82 beaches.

Of concern are those that just met the "Mandatory bathing water standards" the standard for minimum water quality

This meant 95% of samples did not exceed 2,000 E.coli per 100 ml5.

These include Towan, Crantock, Holywell Bay, Mounts Bay Penzance, Church Cove, Poldhu Cove

MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, Rachel Wyatt, says the latest results show that the charity’s call for improved monitoring of combined sewer overflows and action to reduce pollution from farms and populated areas is urgently needed.

In Cornwall SAS have worked with South West Water to install a warning system when raw sewage is being released into some of the county's bathing waters.

"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 then that would be a significant start," she added.

However, MCS says that in too many places there is still an out of sight, out of mind mentality because you just can’t see this kind of water pollution even when you’re swimming in 'it'.

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