Sea water pollution

Clean water campaigners Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have received strong support for a pilot scheme to warn beach users of potential poor water quality at a meeting organised by MP Julia Goldsworthy.

The pilot project will be running on (some) beaches in the South West for the 2010 bathing season.

Attending the meeting with SAS and Liberal Democrat MP, Julia Goldsworthy, were the Environment Agency, the RNL, Cornwall Council, Consumer Council for Water and South West Water (SWW).

Since SAS starred in this summer’s Panorama, “Britain’s Dirty Beaches”, the most watched Panorama of the year, SAS have been lobbying for short term pollution warnings.

These warnings would inform beach users of potential pollution from a CSO discharging raw sewage and waste water or other pollution sources. The concept received strong support from Julia Goldsworthy, the Environment Agency and Cornwall Council.

The proposed project will be piloted at popular Cornish beaches. This pilot project will investigate ways to warn the public of a short term pollution incident. Everyone attending the meeting recognised that there are many potential sources of pollution that can impact on bathing waters, including CSOs, agricultural and urban runoff.

CSOs discharging raw sewage and wastewater can have a short-term impact on water quality and on the health of water users. The project could include using new technology to warn the public when a CSO is spilling sewage into river or onto beaches.

This pilot project is great news and a first for beaches around the UK. Warning the public when water quality might be reduced will become more important in the revised Bathing Water Directive and this initiative could help demonstrate best practice to be replicated across the UK.

SAS Campaign Manager, Andy Cummins says: “This summer’s Panorama shocked people across the country. The perception was that the UK’s sewage system was working fine effectively, and raw sewage discharges were a thing of the past. Panorama highlighted that, in reality, even beaches rated excellent can receive raw sewage discharged from CSOs. Short term pollution warnings can let the public make an informed decision before they expose themselves to potentially harmful pathogens.”

Liberal Democrat MP for Falmouth and Camborne Julia Goldsworthy says: “Cornwall has fantastic beaches which are vital to our local economy, so it’s important that we are at the cutting edge of best practice in keeping them clean and safe. Surfers Against Sewage have done a great job in campaigning on these issues, and bringing them to public attention through the BBC Panorama programme. I’m delighted that there is now have a positive outcome to all this work, with a pilot scheme that will be the first of its type in the country.”

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