Bathing Water Pollution Rises As Governments Propose 50% Cut In Testing

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) today asks why both the UK Government and Scottish Government are proposing a 50% cut in water quality testing when official figures for 2007, also released today, show a ten-fold increase in official UK coastal bathing sites failing legal minimum standards compared to 2006. MCS believes that the number of failures will rise still further when unofficial sites are included in its Good Beach Guide 2008, published next May.

Government figures released today on UK bathing water quality for Summer 2007 show that the number of official coastal bathing sites failing legal minimum standards rose from 2 in 2006 to 20 in 2007. This week both the UK Government and the Scottish Government published their proposed new regulations for bathing water standards In England, Wales and Scotland which includes a statutory cut in water quality testing from once a fortnight to once a month.

Thomas Bell, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, said: “A proposed statutory cut of 50% in bathing water quality testing flies in the face of the pollution problems we’ve seen around the UK coast this summer. New bathing water standards have been adopted by the European Union. The UK must turn these standards into domestic law by March 2008, and current proposals are the minimum necessary to comply. A million Britons regularly  use our coast for water sports which expose them to pollution risks. MCS does not believe that the new proposals for testing frequency are robust enough.”

Summer 2007 was one of the wettest on record, and the high rainfall substantially increased pollution pressures around the UK coast.  Waterborne pollutants such as raw sewage, organic refuse and farm waste are periodically swept by heavy rain from the land into rivers and the sea, and it’s largely this effect that produced the substantial increase in bathing sites failing legal minimum standards in Summer 2007.

Thomas Bell continued: “New European standards for the marine environment are positive drivers for change, but they are not ‘a once size fits all’ solution. Conditions vary from country to country. Both the UK Government and Scotland’s insistence on again doing the minimum necessary to comply with Europe has fallen short of what MCS believes is the minimum necessary to protect Britain’s seas and bathers.”