Marine Conservation Society Press Release
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Water Triumph! Record-breaking Bathing Water Results On Britain's Beaches9th November 2005
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) today acknowledged record-breaking water quality results at the 559 official bathing beaches in the United Kingdom for the Summer 2005. The data released by Defra, the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly and Department of the Environment Northern Ireland shows that 75.1% (420) of official UK coastal bathing sites achieved the European Guideline standard, compared with the previous record of 74.7% in 2003.
Government figures also show that 98.4% (550) of the officially designated beaches in the UK achieved the 20 times less stringent European Mandatory standard (statutory minimum) this Summer, equalling a record set in 2003.
The Good Beach Guide, published annually by MCS, contains a list of beaches recommended for top water quality. MCS now expect that the number of beaches recommended in the Good Beach Guide 2006 will increase. The Guide is available online at www.goodbeachguide.co.uk
The results bear out a mid-season UK beach ‘health check’ published by MCS in August. MCS attributes the overall quality of this Summer’s bathing water to below average rainfall, and long-term investment by the water industry in the UK’s sewage infrastructure.
Thomas Bell, MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, said: “These results are fantastic news for Britain’s beaches, and for the millions of people who enjoy swimming in the sea. There is however a word of caution. Swimmers have a 1 in 7 chance of contracting a sewage related illness, for example gastroenteritis, if they swim at beaches complying solely with the European Mandatory standard. This standard dates back to 1976, and is now acknowledged by the European Commission and the World Health Organisation as presenting an unacceptable public health risk.”
Thomas Bell continued: “Swimmers should seek out bathing sites offering Guideline standard water quality as a minimum, if they wish to guard against exposure to sewage related disease.”
For further information please contact:
Thomas Bell, Coastal Pollution Officer: Tel - 01989 561589, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Harrington, Communications Manager: Tel - 01989 561585
Marine Conservation Society
Unit 3 Wolf Business Park
Alton Road, Ross-on-Wye
Herefordshire, HR9 5NB
Tel: 01989 566017
Fax: 01989 567815
Notes To Editors:
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK’s charity dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and its wildlife. It seeks to protect the marine environment for both wildlife and future generations by promoting its sustainable and environmentally sensitive management. MCS believes in working through persuasion, and effecting change based on sound factual evidence. Since its formation in 1983, MCS has become a recognised authority on marine and coastal conservation and is regularly consulted by Government for its views on a range of marine issues. Working closely with other environmental organisations, local authorities and statutory conservation agencies, MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation. MCS produces the annual Good Beach Guide (www.goodbeachguide.co.uk), the Good Fish Guide, as well as promoting public participation in volunteer projects and surveys such as Beachwatch, Adopt-a-Beach, Seasearch and Basking Shark Watch. For more information about MCS please visit www.mcsuk.org
Government bathing water results for officially designated bathing sites in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are published by the Defra (http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2005/index.htm), the Welsh Assembly (http://www.wales.gov.uk/news/index.htm), the Scottish Executive (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/News-Today), and the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland (http://www.doeni.gov.uk/), respectively.
Testing is conducted the Environment Agency (England and Wales), Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Environment & Heritage Service (Northern Ireland). Information provided by these authorities was used to compile the MCS Good Beach Guide 2005. Throughout the bathing season (June to mid September in Scotland, May to September in all other regions), water quality is measured once a week. This information is updated regularly on the Environment Agency (www.environment-agency.gov.uk), Scottish Environment Protection Agency (www.sepa.org.uk) and the Environment & Heritage Service Northern Ireland (www.ehsni.gov.uk) websites.
Water quality standards for all official (designated) European (EC) bathing sites are set down in the EC Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC). The Mandatory Standard - the legal minimum - is based on levels of faecal and total coliforms that indicate the presence of pollution from human sewage and/or livestock faeces. Mandatory Standard determines whether a beach ‘passes’ or ‘fails’. The Directive also describes the 20 times more stringent Guideline Standard, which is generally accepted to indicate good water quality. It has now been shown that the microbiological criteria for the Mandatory Standard are not strict enough to minimise the risk of contracting a serious illness.
The beaches recommended in the MCS Good Beach Guide must:
- Achieve a 100% pass of the EC Mandatory Standard (compared to 95% required by the EC Directive).
- Pass the 20 times higher EC Guideline Standard.
- Not be affected by any continuous sewage outfalls that discharge raw, screened or primary treated sewage.
Embargo until 00.01am Wednesday 9th November 2005
The MCS Good Beach Guide has been published by the Marine Conservation Society annually since 1987. Now in its 17th year, the Guide plays a key role in MCS’ Campaign for Clean Seas, and is the only comprehensive and independent guide to the quality of Britain’s coastal bathing waters. The Guide provides information on water quality and sewage discharges at over 1,000 UK beaches, allowing readers to make an informed decision about where to find the cleanest bathing water. Produced with the support of The Crown Estate, RNLI, Project AWARE and Visit Scotland, MCS recommends 426 UK bathing beaches in 2005. Copies of the pocket Good Beach Guide are available free from MCS (SAE required). Further details on the location and facilities at all MCS recommended beaches is displayed on the MCS Good Beach Guide website (www.goodbeachguide.co.uk).
Sewage pollution from outfalls has been the major source of bacterial pollution in coastal waters for the past century, masking other sources of pathogens. As sewage discharges have been cleaned up, due to investment in the wastewater infrastructure over the past decade, other sources are becoming more dominant, especially during wet weather. Bacterial pollution can derive from diffuse sources such as agricultural run-off, urban run-off, storm waters, private discharges, septic tank leaks and dog faeces. Programmes to control these sources have been developed in different regions; one example is the Scottish Bathing Water Strategy (www.sepa.org.uk/data/bathingwaters/).
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Guidelines For Safe Recreational Water Environments forms the scientific basis for the European Commission’s 2002 proposed revision to the EC Bathing Water Directive. WHO report a proven causative link between faecal pollution in seawater and both gastroenteritis and acute febrile respiratory illness (AFRI). More information is available here: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/bathing/srwe1/en/
In October 2002 the European Commission proposed Bathing Water Directive 2002/0254 (COD) as a revision to the current legislation (Directive 76/160/EEC), which included a stricter minimum ‘Good’ water quality standard for coastal waters; a greater emphasis on public information; and consideration of all potential contamination and pollution sources. In December 2004 the European Council proposed a less stringent ‘Sufficient’ (minimum) water quality standard. In October 2005, the European Council and European Parliament met at Conciliation and agreed a final text for the revised Directive, including criteria for a ‘Sufficient’ water quality standard. This final text will now be sent to both the Council and Parliament for a final vote of acceptance. If successful, a new Bathing Water Directive will be adopted in the winter of 2005/6. More information is available here: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/quality/bathing/revision.htm
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