British Prime Minister learns he has been swimming in sewage contaminated sea water

The Guardian reports, 28th August 2015: David Cameron, chillaxing with his wife Samantha in Cornwall, presumably thought he was safe from a shower of excrement — at least until PMQs begins again in September. But the unlucky PM chose the wrong moment to bodyboard with his wife Samantha, as the surf was riven with diluted sewage.

South West Water confirmed to the Times that sewage was pumped into the sea on Sunday morning and on Wednesday afternoon off Polzeath beach, where the Camerons have holidayed every year since 2010. The couple were photographed bodyboarding for about an hour on Monday and Tuesday.

Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage issues alerts to warn people against entering the water because of the risk of infection. Untreated sewage is pumped into the sea as an emergency measure when heavy rain might cause the water to back into people’s homes.

David Smith, campaign manager for SAS, told the paper: “If the Camerons were swimming within the time frames of a spillage they might well be at risk. There could be anything from a small health risk such as skin, eye, ear, or throat infections to much more serious conditions such as E.coli or hepatitis, which can be present within raw sewage.”

In pictures of the pair, a drenched Cameron appears to have his mouth firmly closed. But Smith said the average surfer ingests 200ml of seawater for every surf, even if they mean to avoid it. “If surfers are using polluted waters the chance of them becoming ill raises significantly,” he said.

Cameron is no stranger to holiday health hiccups. Earlier this month, the PM was treated for an ear infection called otitis — known as swimmer’s ear — which he picked up surfing in Portugal. Last year, in Lanzarote, he was stung by a jellyfish.

Source: The Guardian, 28th August 2015. For the full details, see


Marinet observes:  Unfortunately, no one can ever be sure in the UK that they have not been swimming in sewage contaminated sea water. This is because the UK still has a sewage treatment system where capacity can be exceeded by an influx of storm rainwater, causing the system to overflow inland into rivers, and at coastal locations into the sea. The frequency of these “storm discharges” depends on the weather and the capacity of the local sewage treatment system.  Both are, in effect, unknowns. The only “guarantee” one can look for is to go swimming only during fair weather, and to avoid swimming when the weather is unsettled or following heavy rain.

If you wish to know more about the health risks associated with swimming in sewage contaminated bathing waters, visit the Marinet website here and also here.

The EU Bathing Water Directive which governs health standards has recently been modified and, according to the EU, improved and upgraded. Certainly the requirement limiting the presence of pathogenspathogens A virus, bacterium or parasite which causes disease is a pathogen. Disease causing pathogens live in the environment, and both humans and animals are hosts to them. Pathogenic viruses, bacteria and parasites are present in sewage, originating from humans and animals, and thus it is essential that sewage is given proper treatment in order to disable (kill) these pathogens before the end-products of sewage treatment (solids and water effluent) are returned to the environment. present in sea bathing water has been made more stringent, however the frequency of the monitoring regime has been reduced from fortnightly to monthly, and a provision has also been added whereby if a sample fails it can now be claimed that weather events were exceptional at the time (e.g. unexpected storm discharge) and so the sample can be retaken when the weather has improved. The failing sampling is then deleted from the record. 

Therefore whether the new monitoring regime introduced this year by the modified EU Bathing water Directive will provide better guidance to the public about the true quality of UK sea bathing waters is a moot point. 

Mr. Cameron may have been bathing in sewage contaminated sea water, only to be told that the water “passed” under the monitoring regime because the conditions when he was bathing were “exceptional” and therefore did not “qualify”. Of course, if he suffers adverse health as a consequence, he’ll not be impressed in the statistical “fix” that the EU Directive now permits.

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