Scotland steps up action to improve bathing standards

Co-ordinated action to improve Scotland’s national bathing water quality is being stepped up following another year of what the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, SEPA, has acknowledged has been disappointing progress.

Before next year’s bathing season begins, SEPA says it will be focusing attention on the nine beaches which failed to comply with EC Bathing Water Directive standards, and others considered to be “at risk”. Each will be the subject of a “rigorous assessment to identify the key factors influencing bathing water quality at a local level”, and environmental quality and improvement plans will be completed to “achieve compliance and reduce the overall risk of pollution by human and animal faecal matter”.

The latest results for the 60 beaches tested by SEPA, showed no overall change on the previous year, with no increase in the number passing the mandatory bacterial environmental quality standard – 51, and no improvement on the 40% passing the stricter guideline indicating excellent water quality. While sewage remains the primary cause of poor bathing water quality in Scotland, other more diffuse sources became apparent with the past year’s heavy rainfall, in particular run-off from farmland.

“Our goal is 100% compliance with European bathing water standards, and it clear that we still have some way to go”, stated Tom Inglis, SEPA’s head of Policy Co-ordination (Water). He said that “considerable sums of money had been spent in upgrading sewerage and sewage treatment and these have resulted in coastal water quality improvements”. This dialogue will continue with the Water Authorities and the Scottish Executive to ensure that sewerage investment will deliver the targeted improvements. The objective now is to step-up pressure on the farming community to work more closely with the existing authorities. In particular, SEPA wants to get more farmers to follow its existing good practice code for the “prevention of environmental pollution from agricultural activity”, which was produced in collaboration with the Scottish Agricultural College, SAC.

SEPA is currently collating its monitoring data for bathing waters and other recreational waters for publication in early 2002.

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