If a country was told that 90% of their beaches and rivers met EU water quality standards, you would think that would be a cause for celebration. Not so in the UK. Despite the new glowing governmental figures from DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), environmental campaigners have said that the results meeting an outdated and inadequate standard are “nothing to shout about”.

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DEFRA’s report said that just 10 out of 502 beaches and inland bathing sites in the two countries failed basic water quality standards making a record 89% of the UK’s bathing waters meeting EU standards (up from 86% last year). However, Andy Cummins, from Surfers Against Sewage, has dismissed the report.

“Many beaches may be meeting woefully inadequate water quality standards set down 35 years ago, but this still leaves bathers exposed to significant numbers of sewage spills, with possible serious health implications.”

Cummins even pointed out that DEFRA’s figures mean that the basic standard, met by 97.8% of all beaches, still meant a one in seven chance of contracting gastro-enteritis.

Hang on, EU water quality standards mean it’s ok to get gastro-enteritis?! What does DEFRA say to that?

Speaking to The Guardian, Christine Tuckett from the Environment Agency said, “New stricter standards will come into force in 2015, and we are working with water companies, farmers, local authorities and beach managers to tackle persistent sources of pollution and make sure that as many beaches as possible pass these standards.”

The Environment Agency has also added that it had helped secure further investment from the water industry for environmental improvements, some of which would be spent on bathing water. Over 90 projects will improve water quality at 37 coastal locations, it said, while scientific investigation will help identify sources of pollution at a further 44 sites. This includes working with farmers to reduce the amount of animal waste washed into rivers, streams and ultimately the sea, and as well as curbing household pollution.

Well, it’s a start but it’s really put a downer on DEFRA’s report.


Via The Guardian

Images: Mooganic and Kelly McCarthy