Water quality good but could be better

While bathing water quality in England this season was the best ever and overall UK results were better than last year, Environment Minister Michael Meacher warned that there are still too many bathing waters failing the bathing Water Directive standards regularly and areas where compliance remains poor.

Of the 496 identified UK coastal bathing waters sampled this year, 89 per cent passed the EC mandatory coliform bacteria standards compared with 88 per cent in 1997 and 90 per cent in 1996. In England, 90 per cent passed compared with 88 per cent last year.

Results from samples taken by the Environment Agency from bathing waters in England showed:

– 349 out of 389 coastal bathing waters met the Directive’s coliform standards;

– of the 40 which failed, half of them missed compliance by only 1 of the 20 samples;

– 146 coastal bathing waters, ten more than in 1997, met the higher guideline standard needed for a European Blue Flag;

– all inland bathing waters, included in the survey for the first time in 1998, passed the mandatory coliform standards; and

– compliance in the north east, at 84 per cent, was worse than in 1997 and, despite an improvement, the north west still remains, at 62 per cent, very poor.

Mr Meacher wants to see further significant improvements in the quality of bathing waters.

“An overall failure of one in ten bathing waters in England is not good enough and I want to see significant improvements and our bathing waters to be regarded among the best in Europe.

“The Government wants to see additional investment made to increase bathing water quality significantly by 2005, particularly in the level of compliance with higher, guideline standards. Compliance is still particularly poor in the north west and I want North West Water and the Agency to continue to work together to sort out the remaining problems.”

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