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Beach water quality worsens around the UK

April 3, 2013 at 8:59 am

An alarming number of beaches around the UK have been stripped of their ‘excellent’ water quality rating. If you are heading to the coast this summer, check that it’s safe to swim first.

The number of beaches failing to reach even minimum water standards, as well as those recommended for bathing, has fallen. The north-west was worst hit with only three beaches reaching an ‘excellent’ standard. Meanwhile in Wales, 30 beaches were demoted from ‘excellent’.

Out of 754 beaches investigated by the Marine Conservations Society (MCS) only 403 were recommended as suitable for bathing, a drop of 113 from last year.

The reason for the rise in pollution is last year’s heavy summer rainfall, which washed pollution from agriculture and cities alike into the sea. Record rainfall and flooding led to overburdened overflow pipes and the displacement of raw sewage directly into the sea.

An increase in viruses and bacteria living in sea water, including E. coli, presents a health risk to bathers. By ignoring water safety warnings, bathers are risking ear, nose and throat infections, or even gastroenteritis.

More stringent EU laws on water quality will come into action in 2015 and unless drastic action is taken, the UK will lose more of its beach resorts, warned the MCS.

The MCS has outlined the need for effective monitoring of overflow pipes and for farmers, communities, the water industry and councils to work together.

A single but important caveat is that the data for the 2013 report was in fact collected in 2012. If we have a drier spring this year, many of those beaches could see a notable improvement in water quality by late summer.

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