The beaches in England deemed too dangerous for swimming: Tynemouth Cullercoats (Tyne and Wear); Allonby South (Cumbria); Scarborough South Bay (Yorkshire); Burnham Jetty North (Somerset); Weston Main (Somerset); Combe Martin (Devon); Ilfracombe Wildersmouth (Devon); Instow (Devon) and Leigh Bell Wharf (Essex) Clacton – Groyne 41 (Essex)
Ten English beaches have been ruled as being unfit for bathing after failing strict water quality tests.
The Environment Agency examines water quality at 420 bathing spots throughout England between May and September each year to establish how much bacteria is living in them.
And figures released for 2018 show that 10 spots have been rated as being ‘poor’ for water quality – up from only six beaches in 2017.
Three of the poorly rated beaches are in the north of England – Tynemouth Cullercoats beach, Allonby South beach in Cumbria and Scarborough South Bay.
At Tynemouth Cullercoats, the Environment Agency in the North East said that DNA analysis had identified a predominantly human source that was affecting water quality and that it is committed to identifying the source.
Two of the beaches are in the south east of the country – Leigh Bell Wharf and Clacton Groyne 41 (by the pier), both in Essex.
Last year, baffled officials from Tendring Council revealed they were unable to understand why Clacton’s Groyne 41 beach kept failing water quality tests.
Meanwhile at Leigh Bell Wharf, its location next to a busy working fishing port is believed to disturb the silt, which can have an effect on water tests.
Ten English beaches have been ruled as being unfit for bathing after failing strict water quality tests and being rated as poor. One of them is Weston-super-Mare main beach, pictured
Scarborough’s popular South Bay was ruled as having poor water quality for a second year running in the Environment Agency tests
Two beaches in Essex have been ruled as having a poor quality of water. One of them is Clacton Groyne 41 beach, left. Officials have been left baffled as to why it keeps failing the tests. Combe Martin beach, right, is one of three Devon beaches that failed water quality tests. It also had a poor rating last year
The rest of the poorly rated beaches are Weston-super-Mare (the main beach) and Burnham Jetty North, both in Somerset, and Combe Martin, Instow and Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, all in Devon.
Earlier this year it was revealed that a 12-year-old girl who went swimming every day at Ilfracombe Wildersmouth beach ended up becoming infected by parasites and contracting cryptosporidiosis, a diarrhoea-related disease.
The Environment Agency and local officials are also trying to work out why there has been a reduction in water quality at both Weston-super-Mare and Burnham Jetty.
At Combe Martin beach, warnings against swimming have been previously issued as a result of short-term pollution.
While at Instow beach, the Environment Agency says there is permanent advice against bathing as it is ‘not feasible’ for it to reach the minumum standard.
To carry out the analysis of water quality, 20 samples are taken at each beach during the bathing season before they are tested in Environment Agency labs for escherichia coli (or E. coli) and intestinal enterococci.
The beach at Instow in North Devon, left, where swimmers are advised against bathing. The Environment Agency says there is permanent advice against bathing here as it is almost impossible for water quality to reach the required standard. Ilfracombe Wildersmouth beach,right, was rated as being poor. Earlier this year, it was revealed that a 12-year-old girl who went swimming every day here for two weeks ended up becoming infected by parasites
E.coli is well known for causing illness, with symptoms including cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting.
Meanwhile, high levels of intestinal enterococci suggest a presence of either human or animal faeces in the water.
If a beach doesn’t meet the minimum standard, it must display a sign advising against bathing, although the beach does remain open to the public.
The bathing water classifications are not based on an individual year’s results, but on an assessment of up to four years’ of data and are relatively constant for most sites.
Because of this, although an individual year’s results do have an effect, they won’t always change a classification.
The good news is that the new Environment Agency data shows that 97.9 per cent of the bathing waters tested met the required standard.
For a fourth year running the beach at Burnham Jetty North in Somerset, left, has been ruled as unfit for bathing. The bathing spot at Leigh Bell Wharf, right, had previously been rated having ‘sufficient’ water quality but now it has been deemed as poor
In addition, 92.4 per cent of the beaches were given a good or excellent rating with spots in Whitby, Sidmouth and Skegness being rated as excellent for a fourth year running.
In the early 1990s just 28 per cent of bathing waters would have met today’s standards but dramatic improvements have been made to water quality over the past two decades, in part due to EA regulation reducing pollution from water companies and industry.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: ‘This is great news for anyone who enjoys a trip to the seaside.
‘We want everyone to be confident in the quality of our bathing waters and that’s why the Environment Agency carry out regular tests to protect the health of visitors.
‘Britain’s beaches are visited around 130 million times each year, generating over £7 billion for the economy.
‘Working together we can all keep driving up standards to reduce pollution, ensuring everyone can continue to enjoy our iconic coastline.’
And Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency, added: ‘Seaside tourism is worth over £7 billion to the economy and good water quality is essential for people to visit and enjoy our beautiful beaches.
‘The Environment Agency’s hard work has helped 388 beaches achieve the top Excellent or Good ratings this year and at beach cleans throughout the summer I’ve seen the commitment of local communities and campaigners to reduce pollution and protect our environment.
‘Everyone can take small steps to help us protect water quality as we continue work with water companies, councils and local communities to maintain high bathing water standards.’
Tynemouth Cullercoats beach, left, has been rated as having poor water quality. In 2015 it was rated as ‘good’. It is believed that a predominantly human source is affecting water quality. Allonby South beach, right, in Cumbria received a poor rating in 2018 after receiving a sufficient rating for the three previous years
While an Environment Agency spokesman added: ‘There have been dramatic improvements to water quality over the past two decades, much of this is down to investment from the water industry to reduce pollution from infrastructure including combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
‘CSOs are a necessary part of the current sewerage system. They act as relief valves that prevent the system from overloading during storms which would otherwise result in sewage flooding homes, roads and open spaces.’
Regarding the results at Leigh Bell Wharf, Councillor Mark Flewitt, from Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: ‘It is clearly disappointing that the bathing water quality has declined at Leigh Bell Wharf.
‘As a seaside resort, I do not underestimate the importance of clean bathing waters in attracting and sustaining visitors, so I am pleased to see the bathing water quality rated as sufficient, good or excellent on all other beaches in the borough.
Seaside tourism is worth over £7 billion to the economy and good water quality is essential for people to visit and enjoy our beautiful beaches
Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency
‘It should be noted that the water quality rating is based on an average of test results over a four-year period and so the reclassification is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of bathing waters as they stand today. Anglian Water has recently carried out substantial work on drainage connections in the area but it will take some time to see what impact this has on water quality.
‘Our priority now must be to support the work of Anglian Water and The Environment Agency in tracing the sources of the bacteria and ensuring any necessary action is taken to bring the bathing waters back up to standard.’
Commenting on Tynemouth Cullercoats beach, Northumbrian Water said: ‘Multi-agency work is ongoing at Cullercoats, the only bathing water area in the North East to not pass the standards, to identify and remedy the cause of a localised deterioration in quality resulting in its ′Poor′ classification.’
A spokesman for Tendring District Council said Clacton, and the wider district, had a number of top quality beaches – with seven given Seaside Awards, including two Blue Flags, this year.
He added: ‘Clacton has a number of first-class beaches and bathing spots, and is a popular destination for residents and visitors alike, but the council is not resting on its laurels.
‘The issues around Groyne 41 are contained to a very small area, and just a few hundred yards along the beach the water quality is rated as excellent.
‘Investigation work on the causes of the poor water quality around Groyne 41, carried out by ourselves and partners including the Environment Agency and Anglia Water, have been ongoing for some time now.
‘However, although the experts including microbiologists have yet to determine the cause, work is still ongoing and we are hopeful a solution will be found.’
Last year, meanwhile, scientists found that plastic pollution is overwhelming Britain’s coastlines, making up close to 90 per cent of litter on beaches.
Scientists have reported that 220,000 pieces of plastic were found along one 37-mile stretch of coastline, including plastic bags, bottle caps and cotton bud sticks.
A huge study that analysed where plastic packaging ended up found the 220,802 plastic items along only nine beaches in Cornwall. They represented 89 per cent of the litter found on the beaches.
Among them were 2,509 cotton bud sticks, thought to have been flushed down toilets, 13,115 drinks caps and lids, 3,109 drinks bottles and more than 81,000 unidentifiable plastic fragments – thought to have been in the sea for decades.
Study co-author Adam Porter, from the University of Exeter, said at the time: ‘Many people blame beach users for not putting their litter in the bin, they blame fishermen for dumping waste, but our study shows the majority of waste is made up of fragmented plastics which have been in the sea for a long time and broken down – and these come from all of us.
‘We need to use plastics responsibly, and they need to be recycled to protect the hundreds of animal groups known to be swallowing this waste.’
Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: ‘These are shocking findings but we don’t need more evidence of this problem, it’s clear that the absolutely unacceptable damage to wildlife and our natural environment is beyond calamitous.
‘What’s needed is the will to do something and a good place to start is with a deposit return scheme – incentivising people to treat plastic as something other than rubbish.
‘Nobody wants polluted oceans and littered beaches. To that end it’s also worth recognising that those with the most responsibility for this waste, and the most power to do something about it, are the companies that make and ferociously market it in the first place.
‘This should be the rightful focus of government to end the scourge of plastics pollution once and for all.’
ENVIRONMENT AGENCY TIPS TO HELP KEEP BEACHES CLEAN AND SAFE TO SWIM AT
Always put litter in the bin at the beach or take it away to dispose of at home.
Check drains at home aren’t mis-connected, sending dirty water from toilets, showers and dishwashers into the wrong pipes and into rivers and the sea.
Wet wipes, cotton buds and sanitary items should go in the bin and not flushed.
Don’t pour fats, oils and grease down the sink, these can pollute rivers and coastal waters and can set hard in pipes, which causes blockages.