Investigation into Blackpool bathing water as EC warns that a fine could be issued
The Environment Agency is investigating why Blackpool continues to fail EU bathing water standards despite millions invested in improved sewage treatment.
“The solutions we’re now looking at won’t be simple,” Jeremy Frost, an Environment Agency’s (EA) Regional Environment Protection Manager told edie. “The simple solution was spending £350 million on infrastructure.”
Although Blackpool’s beaches have seen significant improvements in average water contamination levels over the last decade, the EA doesn’t know exactly why the improvements have not been great enough to meet the EU Bathing Water Directive standards.
“I’ve shown EC officials what we’re doing and they haven’t been able to suggest that we do anything more in terms of infrastructure and investigation,” says Frost. Nevertheless, the EC has announced that a second round in the European Court is a possibility – this time the UK could be fined for its infraction – if Blackpool’s bathing waters don’t improve.
Frost believes that the EA’s comprehensive investigation efforts will eventually pay off. In addition to a state-of-the-art computer modelling system, the EA is combing the Blackpool coastline for clues. “We’ve already found some outfall pipes that aren’t on any maps,” admits Frost, who points to Blackpool’s development in the 18th and 19th centuries as a tourist destination as adding to the investigation’s complexity. In the past, building a hotel on the seafront may also have entailed building a sewage outfall pipe that pre-dated municipal sewerage systems.
“We’re going metre by metre along the prom,” says Frost. “This is among the most heavily monitored and investigated area of bathing water in Europe.” Seeing whether the old sewerage system is taking some load during storms is also ongoing, as are checks to see if parts of the old sewerage system are connected to the new one. The possibility that groundwater has been contaminated by the old sewerage system has also been acknowledged.
Although Frost agrees that more funding is always nice, the EA’s investigation into Blackpool’s bathing water quality is cheap compared to the expense of building infrastructure. “We’re talking about some of the best people in the UK’s time for analysis,” says Frost.
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