It may be chilly but it’s safe to take a dip

The Environment Agency has resumed seasonal water quality testing at popular swimming spots across the North East.

By Ian Smith
Wednesday, 22 May, 2019, 13:21
Beadnell beach. Picture by Jane Coltman

Of the 34 bathing waters in the North East, an amazing 33 are classified as excellent or good.

In Northumberland, the beaches at Bamburgh, Seahouses North, Beadnell, Low Newton, Warkworth, Amble Links, Druridge Bay (north and south), Newbiggin (north and south), Blyth South and Seaton Sluice are rated as excellent.

Spittal, which is sometimes affected by flood debris washed down the River Tweed is rated good.

Gordon Reid, the Environment Agency’s bathing water specialist in the North East, said: “The bathing water quality in the North East really is something to be proud of.

“To have all but one of our bathing waters classified as good or excellent is fantastic news.

“We continue to play our part in maintaining and improving water quality at all 34 North East bathing waters, and checking compliance with environmental permits.”

All members of the public can help keep water clean by taking all rubbish with them after visits to the beach, not leaving dog mess on the beach and never flushing wet wipes or pouring fats down drains.

Pollution from sewage and pollution from agriculture are generally recognised as the two most significant sources but there are some local variations.

At some beaches, pollution from farm run-off has an impact on water quality.

Surveys have shown that around a third of bathing water pollution is caused by agriculture. In 2018, new farming rules for water were brought in.

The weather often has the greatest short-term influence on water quality. Heavy rain washes pollution off urban areas and rural land into rivers and the sea, which causes a temporary dip in water quality.

The Environment Agency tests water quality at every official bathing water to ensure it is maintained and improved.

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Beach-goers can check the quality at their nearest bathing spot by visiting the Environment Agency’s Bathing Water Data Explorer website.

Nationally there are more than 400 popular swimming spots and water quality remained high with 97.9% of bathing waters in England meeting the tough standards last year - 92.4% of these locations achieved the top rating of Excellent or Good, meaning visitors to the seaside have 388 top-rated coastal and inland bathing waters to choose from.

As well as making sure people can make informed choices about where to bathe, regular monitoring supports ongoing work to maintain and improve water quality supporting the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

The Environment Agency continues to work with water companies, councils and local communities to keep our beaches clean, reduce pollution and protect our environment.

Helen Wakeham, head of water quality at the Environment Agency, said: “Water quality has improved at English beaches over the last two decades giving locals and tourists a better experience as well as benefiting the environment.

“Improving water quality at our beaches is a fantastic achievement and is a testament to the work of Environment Agency staff, water companies, local authorities, farmers, volunteers and NGOs. It shows what energy and commitment can achieve for the environment and people.”

“Water quality test data is published on the Environment Agency’s website and notifications of water quality issues for over 350 locations in the UK are available via the Safer Seas Service app, so we urge people to check as part of planning your trip to the beach.”

Over the last 20 years water quality has improved. In the early 1990s, just 28 per cent of bathing waters would have met the highest standards and last year 92.4% achieved Excellent or Good.

The Environment Agency will continue to collaborate and drive improvements nationally and look for local solutions to achieve the goal in the government’s 25 Year Plan to further reduce the bacteria in our bathing waters by 2030.

Water companies have invested over £2.5 billion on projects that have improved water at swimming beaches. Water companies have signed up to Environment Agency proposals to improve 24 bathing waters between 2020-2025.

The Bathing Water Data Explorer website may advise against swimming and the water quality app from Surfers Against Sewage includes EA pollution alerts in addition to data from water companies providing the public with up to date information before deciding where to swim.

In addition to information being made available online, signs are displayed at beaches with the bathing water classifications.