Rain gets blame for decline in resort waters

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The number of bathing spots which failed to meet clean water standards increased in the face of one of the wettest summers on record, new figures have revealed.

In Yorkshire, tests showed two failed to meet the minimum grade, with a further five in the North East also below standard, but 87 per cent of bathing waters met the required quality standards in 2012.

Overall, the results showed a drop in water quality in comparison to last year, when all bathing waters in the region met the required standard. The Environment Agency says this year’s poor results were caused by exceptionally high levels of rainfall, which washed pollution from cities and rural areas into rivers and streams.

Dominic Shepherd, regional environmental planning manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Generally speaking, bathing water quality is very good in Yorkshire and the North East, and the long-term trend is that quality is improving.

“During 2011 we saw 100 per cent in the region and we expect this kind of high quality to continue under the normal range of weather conditions.

“It is also worth remembering that, while our samples were affected on some occasions by the exceptionally heavy rainfall, quality usually increases again within a short period after the heavy rainfall has passed.”

The water quality results, compiled from tests carried out by the Environment Agency throughout the bathing season, were announced yesterday by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at the Cleaner Seas Forum.

Some 47 out of 54 bathing waters in the region met the mandatory requirement of the European Bathing Water Directive. Some 25 of these met a higher standard but seven failed to meet the mandatory standard.

Those which failed were: Sandsend, Spittal, Seaton Sluice, Seaham Beach, Seaton Carew North, Staithes and Saltburn.

Bathing waters in Yorkshire and the North East which met the higher standard were: Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses North, Beadnell, Low Newton, Warkworth, Amble Links, Druridge Bay South, Newbiggin North, Newbiggin South, Whitley Bay, Tynemouth Long Sands North, Tynemouth Long Sands South, Tynemouth King Edwards Bay, South Shields, Runswick Bay, Whitby, Scarborough North Bay, Clayton Bay, Reighton, Danes Dyke Flamborough, Bridlington North Beach, Skipsea, Hornsea, Tunstall, and Withernsea.

All beaches throughout Lincolnshire passed both standards.

In spite of the disappointing results, the agency says the long-term trend is that water quality is improving.

Across England and Wales, some 516 bathing waters were monitored during the season. Of these, 94 per cent reached the mandatory standard. Back in 1990, the pass rate was just 78 per cent.

However a new EU directive, due to come into force in the future, aims to set more stringent standards.

Mr Shepherd added: “The results this year do highlight the need for more action to be taken to reduce all sources of bacterial pollution.

“The Environment Agency is working with water companies and local authorities to improve sewerage and drainage infrastructure, and with farmers to lessen the impact caused by farmland drainage.

“It is also crucial that the public get involved by reporting pollution incidents, becoming involved in beach care campaigns, taking care of what they dispose of down the drains to prevent blockages, and ensuring their properties are properly connected to the sewerage and drainage system.”

Lord Chris Smith, chairman of the Environment Agency, said: “Bathing water quality has improved significantly over the past two decades, but this year heavy rainfall over the summer has affected results.

“During intense rainfall, pollution from farmland, roads, and drains is washed into rivers and coastal areas.

“Water companies also operate combined sewage overflows to prevent sewage from backing up and flooding people’s homes.”

He warned that the very wet conditions highlighted that more needs to be done by water companies, businesses, farmers and local authorities to improve water quality on beaches and meet the more stringent EU standards coming in by 2015.