Beach failure fear over new EU rules

Dr Jeebers' pebble art on Morecambe Beach near the Stone Jetty.
Dr Jeebers' pebble art on Morecambe Beach near the Stone Jetty.
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Morecambe South beach could be one of 25 beaches in England which fail to meet new EU standards for bathing water quality, the Environment Agency has warned.

The new regulations, which came into force on May 15, cut acceptable levels of harmful bacteria in half and are in line with current World Health Organisation guidelines.

Under the new standards one in 20 bathing spots could be rated “poor” by the Environment Agency -- 25 beaches in total -- effectively making them unfit for bathing.

Last year 99.5% of beaches and lakes met the basic standards for clean bathing waters, with just two locations failing to pass even the mandatory grade.

The new regulations are likely to see that figure drop by 6%, with water at 25 beaches rated “poor”. Local authorities receiving low ratings will be required to improve water quality. Morecambe South, the beach west of the Midland Hotel, as well as beaches at Blackpool, Ilfracombe and Margate are among those at risk. Water quality in the UK has improved markedly in recent years and in 1988 only 65 %of beaches were deemed fit for swimming.Following the publication of the new figures the Environment Agency has called on water companies, business, farmers, local authorities and households to help improve water quality.

The measurements the Environment Agency uses to assess water quality are based on the levels of certain bacteria in 100ml samples of water. Poor water quality can cause eye and ear infections and stomach flu. Dirty bathing water can be the result of sewage overflows, badly connected drains and agricultural run-off.

Ed Mitchell, Executive Director of Environment and Business at the Environment Agency, said: “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. Good bathing water quality is essential for people’s health, local tourism and economic growth, and everyone can play their part. We want water companies, businesses, farmers, local authorities and people living, working or visiting seaside towns to help us improve water quality.”

From 2016, local councils will have to display signs at all bathing waters showing if the new measures have been passed and whether or not swimming is advised Check bathing water quality at http://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles/.