Scotland’s bathing waters are good but still have room for improvement

Although 85% of Scotland’s identified bathing waters meet the EC bathing water directive’s mandatory standards, they have failed to improve on last year’s figures according to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

Scottish Bathing waters 2001 Report highlights improvement at Scotland’s south and east beaches, but long-term problems sill exist on the west coast.

The SEPA report contains results for each of Scotland’s 60 identified bathing waters. It also considers the results obtained from other coastal and inland bathing waters, which are routinely monitored by SEPA. Improvements were found at both EC identified bathing waters and other recreational waters where new sewerage or sewage treatment schemes had been completed since 2000. Improvements are particularly well illustrated in the south-east where guideline compliance at identified bathing waters now stands at 74%.

Only Kingsbarns failed to meet directive requirements last year, due to partially treated and diluted sewage effluent being washed back onshore by a combination of tide and wind conditions. To reduce the chances of this recurring, plans are underway for improvements to the outfall and final effluent disinfection before the 2002 bathing season, with full treatment and UV treatment hoped to be achieved by the 2003 bathing season.

“The improvements in bathing water quality in the south and east areas over the last few years have been very impressive,” said Colin Bayes SEPA South East Area Environmental Regulation & Improvements Manager. “The investment made by the water authorities and their predecessors in the sewage treatment infrastructure is directly related to these improvements, as is the effort put in by SEPA, the local authorities and other active participants”.

However, there remain long-term problems with some identified waters on the west coast, particularly in Ayrshire and Argyll. In the majority of cases, SEPA’s monitoring clearly indicates that poor bathing water quality is attributable to sewage effluent.

“Specific work was done in 2001 to look at the effects of rainfall on bathing quality,” stated Tom Leatherland, SEPA’s Environmental Quality Regulation and Development Manager. “This provided statistical confirmation that bathing water quality is worse during or immediately after rainfall, especially at sites subject to sources of cattle or dairy farming pollution, such as those in Ayrshire.”

A spokesperson for SEPA told edie, “Generally you can predict which beaches will have higher levels as they correspond with sewage outlets. It’s far more difficult to predict the effects of diffuse pollution when you can’t identify one particular source. For example, a large area of agricultural land draining into a river, or where the mouth of a river leads straight onto a beach”.

The first of June marks the start of the bathing season. Throughout the bathing waters season, SEPA will continue to undertake microbiological tests to search for bacteria that indicate the presence of pollution from human sewage or livestock excrement.

These results will be posted live on SEPA’s website each week until mid-September. Asked whether this is in response to public demand, the spokesperson explained, “No, we have always posted results onto the website, for as long as SEPA has existed. This will be the seventh summer of results”.

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