Sand, Sea and Sewage

Sand, Sea and Sewage

A Marinet Report which investigates and records the levels of sewage pollution which affect English sea bathing waters today.

The Report is in two parts. Part One examines the condition of English sea bathing waters since the introduction of the new EU Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC in 2015. It examines the integrity of the current monitoring and sampling system which measures the actual quality of sea bathing waters, as well as examining the robustness and deficiencies in the English sewage treatment system. Part One also makes a series of recommendations for both the practices and system which govern the monitoring of sea bathing water quality and also for the national sewerage system whose deficiencies are the cause of many of the problems which the Report identifies.

Part Two of the Report is an historical account of English sea bathing water quality under the old Bathing Water Directive 76/160/EEC which governed from 1979 to 2014. Part Two was written in 2017 by Pat Gowen who died in the same year. As a preface to Part II of the Sand, Sea and Sewage Report (May 2020) we also provide a short obituary to Pat Gowen, Marinet’s founder Chair.
 

Patrick Gowen

 

 


 

Sand, Sea and Sewage

 

Contents

1. Introduction

Part I : EU Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/ EC, 2015 to 2019

2. Executive Summary

3. An Overview : English Bathing Water Quality and Associated Sewage Treatment Practices

4. Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC : Its Regulations and Key Issues Requiring Change

5. Is Discounting of Samples Manipulating the Quality Classification of Bathing Waters?

6. Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC : Ambiguous Issues and Grey Areas of Concern.

7. A Gold Standard : Marinet’s Recommendations for Improvement.

8. Conclusion

9. Appendix A : Marinet: Summary Analysis of English Bathing Water Quality, 2015 to 2019

10. Appendix B : UK Bathing Water Regulations 2013.

11. Appendix C : Marinet: Analysis of Environment Agency (EA) Bathing Water Monitoring
Monthly Data, 2019 : Blackpool Central, Lancashire: EA Daily Pollution
Forecast alongside EA Sample Discounting Record, 2019.

12. Appendix D : 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. occurring in Sewage contaminated bathing waters

13. Appendix E : Illustration of Dissipation of Sewage pumped to Sea after different time intervals

14. Appendix F : Within-day variability in microbial concentrations at a UK designated bathing water

Part II : EU Bathing Water Directive, 76/160/EEC, 1976 to 2014

‘Sand, Sea and Sewage’, by Pat Gowen, published January 2018, revised 2020

Published by Marinet Limited, 2020

 

 

Introduction

 
Marinet was formed in 2002 by several Friends of the Earth Local Groups along with other individuals and organisations wishing to see the national Friends of the Earth organisation deepen its commitment to marine protection. There was a single issue which concerned the majority of Marinet members: the pollution of our beaches and sea bathing waters by the discharges of raw sewage on a routine, daily basis.

The subsequent campaign at national and European Union (EU) level to arrest and prevent such practices was a long fought one.

Part 2 of this publication records the campaign fought from the 1970s onwards to secure sound environmental and public health practices, woefully absent at that time. Central to that campaign was Patrick (Pat) Gowen who lived in Norwich and who with others had founded their own campaign organisation, the North Sea Action Group. As founding chairman of Marinet in 2002, he joined others like myself who had been campaigning elsewhere in the UK to the same ends — in my case, in West Lancashire with Save our Shoreline, Southport Association. Before Pat died in 2017, he resolved to record the history of this campaign in its early years, titling it Sand, Sea and Sewage.

Pat Gowen never managed to complete this work, particularly with regard to present campaigns, so he passed his manuscript to me, Stephen Eades, for completion. This I have done, seeing this also as an opportunity for Marinet to research and report on coastal sewage disposal practices today, along with their impact on English beaches and sea bathing waters.

Regulation throughout this period, from the early 1980s to now in the 2020s, has been overseen by two EU Directives (laws), the first 76/160/EEC which became operative in UK law from 1976 and the second, 2006/7/EC, which repealed the earlier Directive and became operative in the UK in 2015. These two Directives have different characteristics and nuances. For reasons of convenience and logic we divide this publication into two parts.

Part 1 covers Marinet’s analysis of the nature of the current Directive, 2006/7/EC, and its implementation by the UK government (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, aka. DEFRA) and the English Environment Agency (EA).

Part 2 covers the historic period from 1976 to 2015 when the first Directive, 76/160/EEC, was operative and superintended in England by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), the regional Water Authorities (privatised in 1989) and, latterly, the national environmental regulator (National Rivers Authority 1989 to 1995 and the Environment Agency 1995 ff).

Part 1 has been researched and written by Brian Morgan and Stephen Eades, with oversight from Marinet’s present chairman David Levy and Geoffrey Meaden. All are Marinet members. Part 2 has been researched and written by the late Pat Gowen, with additional editing by Stephen Eades.

Marinet is an independent campaigning and educational marine organisation constituted on a membership basis and it is run by its members on a voluntary basis. It is registered as a not-for-profit limited company. Its present organisational structure, now wholly independent from Friends of the Earth, dates from 2014. Its website is www.marinet.org.uk.
 

Part I

 

EU Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/ EC, 2015 to 2019

 

Executive Summary

 
The first half of Sand, Sea and Sewage analyses the UK’s performance from 2015 to 2019 against the European Union’s (EU) Bathing Water Quality Directive, 2006/7/EC, and concentrates upon bathing waters in England. It brings up to date an earlier analysis undertaken by Marinet of the previous Bathing Water Quality Directive, 76/160/EEC, to be found in the second half of this publication.

The analysis uses official data published by the English Environment Agency (EA) and the Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in connection with the monitoring of sea bathing water quality required under Directive 2006/7/EC. It analyses this data to examine the degree of sewage pollution which affects English bathing waters. Also analysed are the manner in which this sampling and measuring is undertaken and how it is recorded as an official record of bathing water quality. In addition, issues peripheral to the Directive, i.e. not part of the legal obligation, are highlighted and analysed.

The analysis reveals that the official portrait published by the EA and DEFRA, whilst legally compliant, is concealing significant and disturbing issues about the true levels of sewage pollution of English bathing waters, many of which are caused by inadequate investment by the English water companies in their sewerage infrastructure and the levels of sewage treatment at their sewage treatment works; all of these shortcomings are tolerated by the Government.

A practice, whose use is optional but legal under the terms of the Directive, is being used by the UK to discount (eliminate) non-compliant samples from the annual quality record. This is being used ‘potentially’ in around 1 in 5 English bathing waters and ‘actually’ in around 1 in 7. This legal deception amounts to manipulation of the record at bathing sites experiencing sewage pollution. It also means that many bathing sites are recording a quality performance superior to that which they actually merit. Further distortion is arising due to the Directive’s limited sampling regime which consists of only one sample taken on just 20 days out of 153 in the full bathing season, thus effectively providing only a single ‘snapshot’ once a week.

This limited portrait of quality is diminished in its integrity not just by the use of discounting (up to 15% of samples may be legally discounted when this is employed, i.e. 3 out of 20) and by the limited number of sampling days, but also by two further factors.

First, at every bathing site daily ‘pollution risk forecasts’ are made by the EA and at some bathing sites predictions of pollution events are being made on as many as half the days in the month, but the vast majority of these forecasted sewage pollution events are never being sampled with the result that pollution events are being left out of the pollution record.

Second, all bathing waters experience routine daily discharges from the local sewage works. This is normal and of no consequence if the discharge is clean, i.e. free of pathogens, which full sewage treatment is readily capable of delivering. These routine discharges are generally made twice on a diurnal (daily) basis, once in the morning around 9.00am and again in the evening around 6.00pm (precise discharge times vary locally). These discharges are of freshwater which, being less dense than sea water, floats on the sea’s surface and each discharge may take up to two hours to fully disperse and dissipate. The problem arises if these regular daily discharges contain partially or untreated sewage.

Under these circumstances the whole bathing area may be affected and this will result in exposure of a bather to sewage-derived pathogens, with an even greater risk of elevated exposure occurring in those parts of the sea nearest to the discharge before full dispersion and dilution has occurred. In turn, this means that if monitoring is confined only to the times after full dispersion has occurred then a partial sampling and portrait of the full reality governing bathing water quality will also have been compiled. In this regard, Marinet’s analysis has revealed that sampling is generally only taken after full dispersion has taken place and that the EA does not sample at the location where the highest levels of pollution are expected, but only at the point where the most bathers are expected.

Marinet’s report has concluded that a combination of practices, all legal but which effectively contravene the term ‘good practice’, are leading to a serious distortion in the official portrait of sea bathing water quality relative to actual water quality at a significant number of bathing sites. This practice is not confined to the poorest performing bathing sites but also includes some sites officially defined as ‘Excellent’ in their performance.

At the present time (2018 figures) the UK is 25th out of 30 European countries in terms of the quality of its bathing waters, as measured by the percentage of bathing waters achieving the Directive’s ‘Excellent’ quality standard. If the manipulative sampling practices described in this report were not employed by the UK, this performance level would likely fall even further.

Marinet has concluded that there are very serious shortcomings both in the quality measurement regime for bathing waters and in the type and thoroughness of sewage treatment being delivered by the water companies. These shortcomings are leading to a demonstrable risk to public health and safety.

As a result Marinet has presented a Gold Standard in this report, this being a list of recommendations for immediate changes in the monitoring regime for bathing water quality and also for the improvement in sewage treatment works whose failings are the direct cause of the problems in the first place. If there were no sewage pollution then the monitoring regime would not need to conceal these problems. These recommendations also encompass two further matters. Firstly, the sampling and condition of beach sands which are not covered by the Directive. At some beaches, beach sands have been revealed to contain significant sewage-derived pathogens. Then secondly, the problem posed by the retention of sewage-derived pathogens in the mudflats of estuaries which, as a direct consequence, are impacting on the water quality at those bathing sites located near to these estuaries.

Marinet notes the departure of the UK from the EU at the end of 2020 and, in particular, the opportunity that the UK will then have as a sovereign state to undertake reforms both in the monitoring regime for bathing water quality and in the raising of treatment standards at sewage treatment works.
 
 
 

An Overview : English Bathing Water Quality and Associated Sewage Treatment Practices

 
There are many ways to judge the quality of a society, indeed of a civilisation. One of the most fundamental is the manner in which that society handles the waste it produces and, in particular, its bodily waste sewage. As you proceed through this report on the quality of our sea bathing waters, as measured by the standards of the EU Directive 2006/7/EC on Bathing Water Quality and the way the UK has implemented it in England, do not lose sight of this point : failure to deal with our own personal bodily waste, sewage, and any attempt to conceal the nature of our performance in this regard reflects very poorly on our values; and, not just on the calibre of our behaviour as a society but also as a measure of our attitude to the environment and the sea and, indicatively, towards the planet as a whole.

There are some key statistics at the heart of this report, measured and recorded by the UK Government (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs/DEFRA, and the English Environment Agency/EA). During the period the current Bathing Water Directive has been in operation (2015 to 2019) these record that 68% of the 400 English bathing waters (see footnote 1) have attained an ‘Excellent’ quality as measured by the Directive’s standards whereas just 2% have had ‘Poor’ quality, with the remaining 30% being either of ‘Good’ or ‘Sufficient’ quality. In other words, these statistics assert that just over two-thirds are ‘excellent’ and ‘safe’ to swim in whereas a little under one-third are in need of varying degrees of improvement, i.e. are experiencing a detectable and sometimes frequent level of sewage pollution (2).

In the context of the overall performance of all EU countries (including Switzerland and Albania) the proportion of bathing water sites in 2018 throughout the whole EU recording ‘Excellent’ water quality was 85.1% , with the level being 63.2% in the United Kingdom (3). In a league table of these 30 European countries, the UK came 25th with only Albania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland having a worse record (4). The best, Cyprus, recorded 99.1% of its bathing waters as ‘Excellent’.

In evaluating the UK’s measurement of bathing water quality under the EU Directive it is first necessary to accept that this Directive (law) is, metaphorically speaking, a strange beast. Based on science, there is a logical tendency to believe that its structure and parameters (what it measures and how it measures) are objectively sound. In some senses this is correct, but in others it is definitely not so. This is because it has been designed by humans with particular motives in mind and thus, whilst serving an objective purpose, it also reflects that human motivation.

Clearly a cardinal objective is to establish that bathing waters are ‘safe’ to swim in. Therefore given that there will be a very large number of pathogens potentially present in sea bathing water (5) if our society engages in discharging both partially and untreated sewage into or close to its sea bathing waters, as we do, then it is practically impossible (other than at great cost and effort) to test regularly for the presence of that full range of pathogens. Hence from a practical point of view there is a need to establish some indicators whose presence can be regularly tested for, i.e. certain pathogens which, if present and present at certain levels of concentration, are indicative of the likely presence of the other pathogens, some of which may be very serious in terms of public health. This is the approach which the EU law follows and its indicator pathogens are Escherichia coli (E coli) and Intestinal enterococci. (Note: not all Escherichia coli are pathogenic — whilst many E coli are entirely benign and are an essential part of the spectrum of bacteria living naturally in the human gut and thus are, for this reason, a good ‘indicator’ of the presence of sewage, there are also other forms of E coli which live only in the gut of animals and can be very toxic to humans). The Directive’s monitoring regime measures the presence of these two ‘indicators’ in samples of bathing water (number of each per 100 millilitres). The level of these two indicators determines the quality grade of the bathing water, namely ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’ (6); and, the epidemiological data upon which these quality standards are based appears to be sound (greater detail supplied later, see footnote 20).

However it is at this point that the issue of human motivation enters the picture and the Directive takes a quirky turn in its apparent scientific basis. This is the issue of the nature of the sampling regime and what qualifies as a valid sample.

The sampling regime is methodologically sound, i.e. is undertaken in accordance with a consistent procedure (specified in the legal text of the Directive) which ensures that the sample is tested reliably in a laboratory for the presence of the two types of sewage-based bacteria (Escherichia coli and Intestinal enterococci). In other words Marinet has no immediate quarrel with the way the Directive is implemented by the regulatory authority (English Environment Agency), other than on two counts. First, all samples are tested in one laboratory (Exeter) which means that samples collected in the north and east of England do have a long way to travel. The Directive requires that all samples are measured within 24 hours, therefore additional regional laboratories more local to the bathing beaches would be desirable. Second, sampling procedures need to be improved in order to avoid cross contamination at the time of actual sampling. This can be readily accomplished by the use of a specialist sampling bottle. These two specific points apart, the professionalism of the English EA is sound.

Where the monitoring regime is on less sound ground is in the following areas, each of which we examine in this report. These are:

Discounting of Samples: The Directive has a provision, whose use is optional, whereby actual samples may be discounted from the pollution record if certain circumstances prevail. These circumstances are termed ‘short term pollution’ events, i.e. occasions when sewage contamination of the bathing water exists but this occurrence is regarded to be exceptional or untypical. The use of this provision is defined in the Directive (Article 2, section 8, see link at end of Appendix B) and up to 15% of samples in a bathing season may be legally discounted under this provision. The UK Government is using this provision in a significant number (1 in 5) of English bathing waters, analysed in greater detail later (see also footnotes 7, 13 and 23).

The use of this discounting procedure is legal, but what is its purpose other than to distort the true record of performance? In the case of a law intended to protect the public from the health hazards caused by sewage pollution, how can it makes sense to eliminate samples from the record when the worst sewage pollution levels occur?

Use of this provision results in a manipulation of the sampling record. This report records the use and extent of this manipulation in the period since the new Directive became operative in 2015. In addition, the report’s analysis shows that over the period 2015 to 2019 this manipulation of the performance level means that each year between 2% and 6% of bathing sites in each quality grading (‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ and ‘Poor’) are achieving superior grades to those which they would otherwise merit Use of this provision (7). Numerically, this manipulation in 2019 affected 19 officially ‘Excellent’ graded sea bathing waters, 31 ‘Good’ bathing waters, 10 ‘Sufficient’ and 5 ‘Poor’ — a total of 65 out of the 400 English sea bathing waters (7).

Whether other EU countries have been using this ‘discounting’ procedure is unknown. If they have not whilst the UK has, then the UK will fall even further in the EU performance table from 25th to 26th with only four other countries having a worse performance level (see footnotes 3 and 4).

The Significance of Sampling Times: Whilst the Environment Agency (EA) undertakes the monitoring regime as laid down by the Directive to a high professional standard, there are other factors which can lead to a distortion of the performance results. Foremost amongst these is the daily (diurnal) discharges from the local sewage works.

Every coastal town, large or small, will have a sewage works. Inland sewage works make their discharges to rivers, coastal sewage works to the sea. The quality of these discharges will depend on the levels of treatment at the sewage works. High grade sewage works will irradiate their liquid effluent using high levels of ultra violet light as a final treatment procedure prior to discharge and this will render inactive all pathogens (bacteria, viruses and parasites), but not all sewage works operate to this standard and their discharges consequently still contain a relatively high level of active pathogens. These discharges to sea are normally made twice daily, once after the morning input peak (when people get up and bathe) and the other after the late afternoon peak (when people return home and similarly raise their water use and its disposal). In sewage management terms, this is known as the diurnal inflow/input and it is accompanied by a corresponding discharge/output from the sewage works in order to maintain capacity within the sewage works to allow it to perform its treatment function.

A coastal sewage works is nearly always located next to the coast itself, this being the lowest topographical point so enabling the sewage works to be fed generally by gravity flow. This location may or may not be close to the town’s sea bathing and coastal recreational areas. The pipeline from the sewage works into the sea will normally be laid underground with discharge into the sea at a point below the low tide mark. Actual discharge points (i.e. how far out beyond the low tide mark and proximity to popular sea bathing locations) vary from town to town and depend on the investment made by the water company operating the sewage works.

These matters are relevant to bathing water quality because, firstly, two main discharges will normally be made daily from the pipeline in accord with the diurnal flow governing the operation of the sewage works (discharges into the sea occurring approximately between 9.00 and 10.00am and between 6.00 and 7.00pm, with local variations) and, secondly, because these discharges will be of variable pathogenic quality (depending of the level of prior sewage treatment within the works) and importantly will be of freshwater, i.e. non-saline and thus of lower density than sea water.

The importance of these two foregoing factors is as follows. As the effluent discharge is freshwater, i.e. less dense, it will float to the surface of the sea and then remain in a plume-like layer on top of the sea until natural dispersion forces (tides, currents, waves, weather conditions, etc.) have caused it to become mixed thoroughly with the sea. If the freshwater effluent plume contains inadequately treated sewage then it will also contain pathogens. However the EA records no advice for the public either locally or on its website about discharge plumes or the hazard associated with them. A thorough mixing normally takes at least one hour, sometimes two (8).

Therefore if the discharge from the pipeline has a high pathogenic content, any measurement of the ‘indicator’ bacterial level in the sea in the vicinity of the pipeline before this mixing has fully occurred will give an elevated reading. Similarly, swimming in this same area under these circumstances has an increased health risk.

In monitoring terms, the following becomes significant. Sampling performed in the period after full dissipation of the morning discharge and before the evening discharge (assuming no additional discharge is made from the pipeline in between) will lead to the optimum bacterial reading because, at this mid-period time, the ‘floating’ surface level phenomenon of effluent from the pipeline will have disappeared and maximum mixing of the effluent with the sea will have taken place. The monitoring done by the EA checks the salinity level of the sample (i.e. checks for full dispersion) and the EA’s records show that the official sampling generally occurs in this mid-point period between the morning and evening discharges. In other words, the EA is testing the optimum moment for pathogenic levels in the bathing water, rather than the worst. (Note: analysis of sampling times is examined later on in this report, see Appendix F and footnotes 30 and 32).

Short-term Pollution Events: A further area where the monitoring regime is on less sound ground has already been partially touched upon in the prior outline of ‘short term pollution’ events and the legal ability for these events to be ‘discounted’ from the monitoring regime and sea water quality record. Yet perhaps of still deeper significance is this question : what are these short term pollution events and what causes them?

These pollution events involve the discharge of untreated or minimally treated sewage. They arise in a number of different ways but always because of the key fact that in any system involving the management of water there must be an overflow mechanism, i.e. when more water enters a system than there is capacity to accommodate it there must be a way by which this excess can be removed : an overflow.

A sewage works is no different in this regard. There are two types of overflow system operating. One is known as a combined sewer overflowCSO The sewerage system generally carries surface water from rain falling on paved areas (roads, pavements, roofs, etc.) via a separate sewer from the sewer which carries foul water (sewage). Surface water sewers are generally low in contamination and are allowed to discharge direct to rivers and sea with no treatment, whereas foul sewers go to a sewage treatment works. When there is heavy or prolonged rainfall sewage treatment works may receive some of this rainwater and thus become overloaded. In these circumstances they need to overflow, discharging the overflow with little or no treatment. This overflow either goes direct to a river or the sea or, more commonly, into a surface water sewer which already connects with a river or the sea. This event, when a surface water sewer is compelled to accept poorly or untreated foul water, turns the surface water sewer into a combined sewer (surface and foul water) on account of the foul water sewer overflowing into it. When this happens the discharge from the surface water sewer is known as a ‘combined sewer overflow’. (CSOCSO The sewerage system generally carries surface water from rain falling on paved areas (roads, pavements, roofs, etc.) via a separate sewer from the sewer which carries foul water (sewage). Surface water sewers are generally low in contamination and are allowed to discharge direct to rivers and sea with no treatment, whereas foul sewers go to a sewage treatment works. When there is heavy or prolonged rainfall sewage treatment works may receive some of this rainwater and thus become overloaded. In these circumstances they need to overflow, discharging the overflow with little or no treatment. This overflow either goes direct to a river or the sea or, more commonly, into a surface water sewer which already connects with a river or the sea. This event, when a surface water sewer is compelled to accept poorly or untreated foul water, turns the surface water sewer into a combined sewer (surface and foul water) on account of the foul water sewer overflowing into it. When this happens the discharge from the surface water sewer is known as a ‘combined sewer overflow’.) and the other is an emergency overflow (EO, sometimes referred to as an emergency sewer overflow, or ESO). In the case of a CSO there are two principal causes of this type of ‘overflow’ and its associated pollution.

Normally foul water is confined to a dedicated sewer whilst general water drainage (rainfall onto roads, paved and concreted areas and such like) goes into a surface water sewer. Thus the two sources of water are kept apart, so enabling a sewage works to have to deal just with the water load from the foul sewer. As a result the surface water sewer can, when good reason permits, completely bypass the sewage treatment works because its pathogenic level is normally very low and so it is allowed to discharge either straight into a river or watercourse or, if on the coast, into the sea.

However a complication arises when sources of foul water (water with sewage present) are not properly connected to the foul water sewer but, incorrectly, to the surface water sewer. When this occurs the surface water discharges are compromised. Most coastal towns will have surface water sewers located in or very close to their sea bathing and coastal recreational areas. Hence if these faults exist in the surface water system and are not corrected raw sewage will contaminate the sea bathing areas. This is one of two ways in which the surface water sewer system loses its integrity and gives rise to the term ‘combined sewer overflow/CSO’. A more significant version of a CSO is explained next.

The storage and treatment capacity of sewage works is designed in terms of how many times the ‘dry day flow’ it can handle, i.e. a multiple of the inflow on a dry day. This means that in periods of low or below average rainfall surface water sewers can, where the design of the sewerage system permits, also be fed into sewage treatment works. This enables the independent surface water discharge to be ‘turned off” so to speak and the water in the surface water sewers will get full treatment instead of being discharged untreated. However when the multiple of the ‘dry day flow’ of the sewage works is exceeded (during heavy or prolonged periods of rain) the surface water sewers will once more need to operate independently and discharge separately from the sewage works. As noted, in most cases this presents no problem; not unless there have been misconnections of foul water into a surface water sewer and, in such circumstances, the surface water sewer discharges will have a pathogenic character.

However circumstances can become more extreme when the sewage works itself becomes overloaded, i.e. is receiving more foul water than its capacity allows for. This can arise when, due to the structure and design of the overall sewer system, surface water sewer flows still enter the foul sewer during heavy or extended rainfall, thus increasing the load on the sewage works to a point beyond its full capacity. When this happens the sewage works either has to overflow via its own emergency overflow (EO) directly into a river for inland works or to sea for coastal works, or back into a surface water sewer which has the ability to bypass the sewage works and then make its own independent discharge, again either to a river or the sea.

Under these circumstances the surface water sewer becomes the overflow for the foul sewer and sewage works, effectively becoming a combined surface/foul water sewer; and importantly from the point of view of sea bathing waters this combined sewer overflow (CSO) is discharging raw or minimally treated sewage, high in pathogenic content.

The operation of CSOsCSO The sewerage system generally carries surface water from rain falling on paved areas (roads, pavements, roofs, etc.) via a separate sewer from the sewer which carries foul water (sewage). Surface water sewers are generally low in contamination and are allowed to discharge direct to rivers and sea with no treatment, whereas foul sewers go to a sewage treatment works. When there is heavy or prolonged rainfall sewage treatment works may receive some of this rainwater and thus become overloaded. In these circumstances they need to overflow, discharging the overflow with little or no treatment. This overflow either goes direct to a river or the sea or, more commonly, into a surface water sewer which already connects with a river or the sea. This event, when a surface water sewer is compelled to accept poorly or untreated foul water, turns the surface water sewer into a combined sewer (surface and foul water) on account of the foul water sewer overflowing into it. When this happens the discharge from the surface water sewer is known as a ‘combined sewer overflow’. and EOs are the principal cause of ‘short term pollution’ events, being unscheduled and non-routine discharges of sewage contaminated water likely to affect the quality of the sea bathing water. When these events are predicted the Environment Agency (EA) issues a Pollution Risk Forecast (PRF). These forecasts are valid for 24 hours and are placed contemporaneously by the EA on its website page which records data on its bathing water monitoring (9) and these short term pollution forecasts are also placed on physical information boards located in the bathing area itself.

Pollution Risk Forecasts: Pollution Risk Forecasts (PRFs) are issued primarily for those bathing waters experiencing sewage discharges which are being made directly into, or adjacent to them, by overflows from sewage works (CSOs or EOs); but they can also be issued for bathing waters adjacent to river estuaries. Estuarine waters are often contaminated by storm discharges of untreated sewage from inland sewage works or by agricultural run-off into contributory rivers and minor watercourses, and this will prove to be an additional complication and generate a ‘short term pollution’ event. Agricultural run-off can be particularly problematic in terms of pathogens, and this is still further complicated where estuarine mudflats retain these pathogens only to subsequently re-release them and so influence the quality of bathing waters in the vicinity of the estuary. (Note: see Appendix D and footnote 15).

Therefore, PRFs can be issued by the Environment Agency either due to overflows (CSOs and EOs) from a coastal town’s own sewage works or due to foul water arriving in the bathing waters via estuaries polluted from farmland and other inland events. Which of these two reasons has given rise to PRF being issued is recorded on the EA website (9).

Whilst the significance of these facts is fairly obvious in terms of their impact on sea bathing water quality, their significance in terms of the EA’s monitoring regime does require a little more clarification.

The EA’s seaside monitoring regime is sampling at most locations on 20 days in a bathing season which runs from the beginning of May to the end of September. In theory, sampling once every 7 days. Whilst the pattern varies between resorts, bathing waters tend in practice to be monitored on 3 or 4 individual days in May, 4 days in June, 5 or even 6 days in each of July and August, and 1 or 2 days in September. Thus from May to the August sampling generally occurs around once a week, although this pattern can be irregular with a sample taken on 3 different days in one week with the next sample not taken until a fortnight or more later. Under the terms of the Directive this pattern of sampling (the sampling dates) is required to be established before the season commences, thus preventing the monitoring authority (Environment Agency) from organising the sampling regime as the season progresses or as the weather and related factors influencing water quality become apparent.

Given this monitoring regime format (i.e. days for monitoring set in advance), the question arises as to whether the monitoring regime is recording an accurate portrait? To be blunt, it cannot. This is because the monitoring days are preset, by law, before the season’s monitoring begins, whereas pollution events and related forecasts (PRFs) are established contemporaneously, i.e. the forecast is not made until the day itself arrives. This means that pollution forecasts (PRFs) can be issued for days when no actual monitoring occurs. In other words, the EA believes there may be a pollution risk of faecal contamination of the bathing water but, because no sample is taken and tested, no one knows whether the bathing water quality was actually affected.

Therefore a key question is : how accurate is a pollution forecast? To elaborate on this question: when a PRF is issued, will water quality actually be affected; and, if this is the case, will this be to such a degree as to ultimately influence the bathing water’s annual grading of ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’?

The following sequitur is also likely to be true: bathing waters in England are being polluted on a number of days by CSOs, EOs and nearby rivers and watercourses, but because no sampling is being done on these days this absence of monitoring is leading to a distortion in the annual performance record.

The difficulty in testing this assertion lies in the absence of empirical data. If a pollution forecast is being made but no monitoring is being done, then no evidence exists. Despite this, the assertion is not totally beyond being evaluated and in this report we have sought to do this with reference to one bathing site during 2019, Blackpool Central, a popular bathing beach in NW England (10). It is true that the data from this one locality is limited and site specific. However to do an analysis of all 400 English bathing waters would be totally beyond the resources of a report like this one; and, in any case, pollution forecasts generally only arise in those locations where there is likely to be a problem.

In England around 68% of bathing waters (based on EA data, 2015-2019) are attaining the ‘Excellent’ quality standard (11). This implies essentially that no significant sewage pollution (in terms of Directive 2006/7/EC) is being recorded at these sites. Yet it has to be noted that, in the period 2015-2019, an annual average of 7% of these sites subsequently classified by the EA as ‘Excellent’ did make use of the discounting procedure. In other words sewage pollution did occur, whether forecasted or not, at some of the highest quality sites — numerically 19 out 269 ‘Excellent’ quality sea bathing waters, figure annually variable (12).

However to return to the assertion — namely, bathing waters in England are being polluted on a number of days by CSOs, EOs and nearby rivers and watercourses but no sampling is being done on these days which, consequently, leads to a distortion in the true performance record. Using the Marinet analysis of the record at Blackpool Central in 2019, this leads to the following question: when days with pollution risk forecasts happen to coincide with those days when actual sampling took place, can these days serve as an indicator of whether actual pollution occurred on days when there was no monitoring? In other words, can these actual sampling days serve as a means for testing whether PRFs as a whole are reliable in predicting the occurrence of actual, measurable sewage pollution events?

At Blackpool Central in 2019, 7 out of 20 of the annual sampling days had PRFs attached to them. Of those 7 PRFs, 3 actually proved to have pollution levels which exceeded compliance with the Directive’s ‘Excellent’ standard, whilst the other 4 PRF events were compliant with the ‘Excellent’ standard. Based solely on this one location, this is a 43% level of probability that a PRF will result in a measurable pollution incident.

Additional analysis of the PRF data at Blackpool Central reveals two further points.

First, on the 3 days where the PRF classification was associated with an actual pollution event there was not just an exceedance of the Directive’s quality standards in the ‘Excellent’ category, but there also occurred levels of sewage pollution which exceeded the ‘Sufficient’ category (6). Using the discounting procedure allowed under the Directive (up to 15% of the 20 samples may be eliminated from the actual pollution record) these exceedances were excluded by the EA from Blackpool Central’s eventual bathing water quality classification for 2019, which officially was ‘Good’ quality. If they had been incorporated, then Blackpool Central in 2019 would have been classified as ‘Poor’ quality. A ‘Poor’ quality beach has no bacteriological (EC and IE) standards per se within the Directive, other than that the contamination level is greater than those governing compliance with the ‘Sufficient’ standard. Thus the ‘Poor’ standard is one whose performance is outside the acceptable public health standards of the law (Directive) and is to be regarded as a ‘failing’ bathing water, with repeated annual ‘Poor’ quality gradings leading to a prohibition of sea bathing until such time as compliance can be achieved.

Second, at Blackpool Central in the 2019 summer season 58 days out of the 153 had a PRF recorded by the EA (10). This is a level of 38%, or almost 2 out of every 5 days recording a PRF. Therefore, if the rough and ready measure of 43% of PRFs translating directly into actual ‘pollution days’ is used, out of the 58 days with a notifiable risk of pollution some 25 days would have had a level of pollution which would have exceeded one of the Directive’s quality standards (‘Excellent’, ‘Good’ or ‘Sufficient’). In other words, the pollution risk forecast (PRF) procedure being used by the EA, which is made daily by the Environment Agency for the benefit of potential bathers, is showing that there may have been an additional 25 days out of the season’s 153 when the Directive’s ‘Excellent’ quality standard was very likely exceeded; and importantly, the actual level of pollution during a PRF can be substantially worse than an exceedance of the ‘Excellent’ grade — as Blackpool Central’s experience in 2019 testifies with its 3 discounted samples which were linked to a PRF each actually measuring ‘Poor’ grade.

Of course, it is easy to get caught up in arguments driven by statistics and as a result cease to see the wood for the trees. So it is useful take a step back and summarise what we know for certain about ‘short term pollution’ events.

We know that the Directive identifies these in its legal text and allows a number of them, up to 15%, to be discounted from the annual performance record.

We know that this procedure is being used widely by the Environment Agency and that it is being used ‘potentially’ in around 20% of English sea bathing sites, i.e. 1 out of 5 sites, and ‘actually’ in around 14% of English bathing sites, i.e. 1 out of 7 sites — precise figures vary annually (13). The use of discounting, both potential and actual, also occurs in all quality classifications (‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ and ‘Poor’).

We know that discounting of short term pollution events, where employed, results in a manipulation of the annual performance result because it removes pollution events from the performance record and so elevates the quality grade above what would otherwise be the case.

We know that the EA is analysing local data daily throughout the bathing season at all 400 English bathing sites to determine whether a pollution risk forecast (PRF) needs to be issued, and that on the overwhelming majority of occasions when these forecasts of a pollution risk are made these PRFs are not accompanied by any actual testing. Evidence based on Blackpool Central in 2019 also suggests that around 40% of PRFs result in a measureable sewage pollution event, and that at Blackpool Central in 2019 PRFs were also issued on 2 out of every 5 days during the summer bathing season. Based on this extrapolation, the evidence relating to the one-third of English bathing sites which still regularly experience sewage pollution is that sewage pollution events are being omitted on a significant number of occasions from the performance record used to determine their annual bathing water quality (14).

Conclusions of the Overview:
Therefore when it comes to drawing conclusions about the monitoring regime, established in law by the EU Directive and professionally administered by the EA, what can we say with a fair degree of certainty? This report’s conclusions are:

● The monitoring regime in its standard form (20 samples per bathing season) has shown that in England around 35% of bathing sites (i.e. 1 out of 3) are experiencing sewage pollution, often on a routine basis (14); and in some cases, around 5%, to a level where bathing probably should be classified as unsafe and prohibited (i.e. ‘Poor’ Standard). In comparison with other European countries, the English performance record at the ‘Excellent’ standard places us 25th out of 30 other countries (2018, EU data).

● This lamentable level of performance is probably actually concealing a worse level of performance because we know the UK government is instructing the Environment Agency to use the legal facility to actually remove pollution events from the quality performance record. This manipulation is legal and, if it were not, it would be classified as deceit. Alas, the truth is being obscured by deliberate legal means and the public misinformed. In some instances, seriously misinformed (ref. Blackpool Central, 2019) and because sewage pollution contains dangerous pathogens the public’s health is being put at risk We know that the EA (15).

● Any statement by the Government that bathing water quality in England is in a good and safe condition is not sustained by the evidence. Sewage pollution is all too widespread and severe; and because the quality record is being manipulated both the bathing public’s safety, as well as the impetus to eliminate sewage pollution at bathing sites, are being dangerously compromised.

● This report stated at the outset that the current EU Directive is a strange beast — it is based on science, but it has been designed by humans with particular motives in mind : paradoxically, to protect the public from contracting minor to severe illnesses from bathing in sewage polluted water and yet, at the same time, to devise a scheme of measurement and monitoring that deliberately conceals the full scale of this sewage pollution. Marinet believes this paradox to be abundantly evident from the summary of evidence presented here, and this report elaborates on this evidence in greater detail later. This being so, one has to ask whether we should simply accept this level of deceit; or, should we demand that the law as it stands be abolished and replaced by one which displays true integrity?

● However if we decline to opt for the rejection of a shamefully poor law which masquerades as something which it clearly is not — namely, a true and genuine guardian of the public’s health which seeks to govern something as fundamentally important as how we soundly manage our own bodily wastes – then Marinet asks, what hope is there for us in dealing effectively with the profound global environmental challenges of the 21st century? This list of challenges includes climate change, carbon free energy, sustainable food production and the preservation of the biodiversitybiodiversity Biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals. of life both on land and in the oceans. So put another way: if we cannot solve this problem, then it appears that we can solve nothing. If we walk away from this issue, then we will likely walk away from every issue. Bathing in one’s own faeces is not only the height of indignity, it is also the epitome of stupidity.

● As to the question of motive behind the original formulation and the current implementation of Directive 2006/7/EC by the UK government it is clear that the opacity, almost mendacity, which surrounds the monitoring and measuring of true bathing water quality is wholly unacceptable and that the scale of this pollution in our bathing waters is simply outrageous. Britain has taken back powers from the EU in order to self-regulate. Therefore there can be no better test of the willingness to use this new ability than for our Government to proceed to enact fundamental reform with immediate effect.

In a final parenthesis to this preliminary outline of the issues, our report also considers three other principal matters. The first matter asks whether the range of monitoring under a law like the Bathing Water Directive ought to be confined just to the sea, but should not also consider the cleanliness of the sand itself on the bathing beaches. The second concerns whether sewage derived pathogens which are being retained in estuarine mudflats is an issue that is seriously compromising a number of bathing waters and so requires special action and scrutiny. Whilst thirdly, the report suggests a number of key changes in the monitoring regime and in the standards of the nation’s sewage treatment system and related sewerage infrastructure which could help to set a Gold Standard : what the law and the sewage treatment system should be if they aspire to be the best.
 
 
 

Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC :
Its Regulations and Key Issues Requiring Change

 
In England the Bathing Water Directive is implemented by the Environment Agency (EA) with the Welsh and Scottish EAs doing so in their countries. The English EA runs a website for this purpose which records the historical (since 2015) and contemporary data collected at each site We know that the EA(16). The superintending government department is DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Directive 2006/7/EC succeeds the earlier Directive 76/160/EEC (the subject of the second half of this pamphlet) and has been operative since 2015. Thus proceeding from the summary provided in the preceding ‘overview’, this and subsequent sections of the report now consider its principal features in greater detail.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Directive uses two indicator species of bacteria for sampling purposes, Escherichia coli (EC) and Intestinal enterococci (IE). The range of EC bacteria (E coli) are numerous, they live exclusively in the gut of humans and animals where most serve a benign, digestive purpose. Therefore if present in the aquatic environment (river or sea) they are a good indicator of the presence of sewage (human or animal). The IE bacteria are also ubiquitous in the gut of humans, long-lived in the environment and similarly serve as a good indicator of sewage in the aquatic environment. They too are largely benign and also occur in animals. Thus in terms of the Bathing Water Directive , EC and IE bacteria are good indicators of the presence of sewage which is the real source (vector) of pathogens which are likely to cause illness (17). Some EC and IE bacteria which are benign in animals can be harmful to humans.

Directive 2006/7/EC uses these bacterial indicators to establish four grades of bathing water quality: ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’, ‘Poor’; (‘Poor’ is essentially a failure and repeated annual ‘Poor’ quality results at a bathing site will lead to a bathing prohibition order). The acceptable levels of these bacterial indicators in sea water against the ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’ and Sufficient’ standard is referenced in the Directive (18), with the ‘Poor’ standard being exceedance of the ‘Sufficient’ standard’s levels. These levels are based on a risk factor: the number of people per 100 (%) likely to contact a gastrointestinal illness when bathing in water of this quality. These levels have been validated by the World Health Organisation (19) and are more rigorous than those in the former Directive 76/160/EEC. The old Directive had a risk factor of 12-15% for coastal waters, and the new Directive’s risk factors are: ‘Excellent’: 3%, ‘Good’: 6%, ‘Sufficient’: 8.6%, with ‘Poor’ greater than 8.6% (20). In order to meet the ‘Excellent’ and ‘Good’ standard 95% of samples tested in a bathing season must accord with the standard, whilst for the ‘Sufficient’ standard the number of conforming samples must be 90%.

The monitoring regime is set down in the Directive. It requires 16 samples to be collected within a bathing season (in England from 1st May to 30th September) with at least one sample taken in each month. In reality, the EA is collecting 20 samples at many locations in the bathing season. At some locations it is actually collecting less than 16, and in some locations (where there is a record of ‘Excellent’ quality) it is only collecting 5 samples (one per month). This reduced frequency is of dubious legality. The Directive requires the sampling regime (i.e. dates on which sampling will occur) to be set before the commencement of the bathing season, with samples to be taken no later than four days from the dates set. The monitoring point may either be at the point where most bathers are expected or where there is the greatest risk of pollution. The EA uses the former option, where most bathers are expected. The collection receptacle must be sterilised, with samples taken 30 centimetres below the water’s surface and in water at least one metre deep. The EA also tests for the salinity of the water at the sampling point. Samples must not be exposed to sunlight unnecessarily and if they are not measured in a laboratory within 4 hours they must be refrigerated, placed in darkness and stored at no more than 4°C. All samples must be subject to laboratory analysis within 24 hours. The bacteria in the sample do have a die-off rate, but no rate of die-off is specified in the Directive nor does the EA compensate for this. The EA sends all samples collected in England, regardless of location, for analysis at its laboratory in Exeter (21).

The Directive contains a provision, whose use is optional, to discount (eliminate) samples from the calculation of the annual water quality classification (‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’, ‘Poor’) when the monitoring authority believes that the bathing water, and thus the sample, has been influenced by an exceptional pollution event which would cause non-compliance using the indicators (EC and IE bacterial levels). This is known as a ‘short term pollution’ event which is defined in the Directive as expected to last for no longer than 72 hours from the point of its occurrence. The total discounting of samples from the calculation of the quality classification can be no greater than 15% of the overall annual samples (i.e. where 20 samples are collected this enables up to 3 samples to be discounted). The UK is using this provision. Under this provision the EA is first recording a sample as potentially discountable with a decision on whether to actually discount being made when the actual bacterial reading is known. All of this is recorded on the EA website We know that the EA (22) We know that the EA. Marinet has monitored use of the discounting provision in England, 2015-2019 (23). In 2019 the use of discounting, potential or actual, occurred at 11% of ‘Excellent’ classified bathing waters, at 40% of ‘Good’ bathing waters, 65% of ‘Sufficient’ and 71% of ‘Poor’. Numerically this translates into around 1 in 5 English bathing waters experiencing discounting in 2019, potential or actual, against a background where 1 in 3 English bathing waters are annually experiencing some degree of sewage pollution as measured under the Directive’s terms. Clearly, potential pollution of bathing beaches is a widespread reality and so the question arises: how is the public to know whether a particular bathing water is likely to be polluted on the day they want to go swimming there?

The answer to this question offered by the Environment Agency is to consult its website (22) to see whether a daily Pollution Risk Forecast (PRF) has been made. Such forecasts are also meant to be displayed physically and prominently at each bathing site. These forecasts last for 24 hours and are set daily. They will predict whether pollution (involving the EC and IE bacterial indicators) is likely to occur due to heavy rain and sewer overflows or due to animal waste caused by farm run-off into neighbouring rivers and watercourses. All categories of beach can experience such forecasts, including ‘Excellent’ grade beaches.

The question then arises: how is the public to know whether this forecast is reliable or not? In other words, will it be safe to swim? The short answer is that the public has no way of knowing. This is because there is no testing done by the EA on a daily basis which would reveal the truth behind these forecasts and during the bathing season of 153 days (1st May to 30th September) samples are only taken by the EA on 20 days. So unless the forecast coincides with a pre-set sampling day there is no way the EA can tell you whether the pollution risk forecast was accurate or not.

In order to try to dig deeper into the facts surrounding the accuracy of these forecasts (PRFs) Marinet has analysed their use in 2019 at Blackpool Central, a well frequented bathing location in NW England whose non-compliance with the old Directive 76/160/EEC actually led to the prosecution and conviction of the UK in the EU Court of Justice for failing to properly implement the old Directive. As a result a substantial upgrade in the town’s sewage collection and treatment system had to be undertaken.

As earlier stated, Marinet’s 2019 analysis has revealed that pollution risk forecasts (PRFs) were issued for Blackpool Central on a total of 58 days out of 153. The details are: in May 2019 14 out of 31 days had a PRF, 7 out of 30 days in June had a PRF, 6 out of 31 days in July, 16 out of 31 in August and 15 out of 30 in September (see footnote 10). Thus out of 153 days in the Blackpool Central 2019 summer bathing season, 58 days had a PRF recorded by the EA. This is a level of almost 2 days in every 5 having a notifiable risk of faecal pollution. Further, on the 20 days when actual sampling took place in accord with the Directive, 7 of those sampling days also had pollution forecasts attached to them. From those 7 sample days with PRFs attached, 3 days subsequently proved to be polluted by sewage and exceeded the Directive’s ‘Sufficient’ standard for quality (i.e. those samples were classed a ‘Poor’ standard), whilst on the other 4 days with PRFs attached no unacceptable pollution was recorded under the terms of the Directive. It is also to be noted that of the remaining 13 sample days (from the preset 20 sampling days) which had no PRFs attached to them, 2 of those sample days did experience sewage pollution which exceeded the ‘Excellent’ standard, thus indicating that sewage pollution events can and do occur even when the EA has issued no Pollution Risk Forecast. Hence the conclusion is: PRF’s are a very fallible guide to bathing water quality from the public’s perspective, based on the Blackpool Central 2019 data.

More disconcerting still is the fact Blackpool Central was given a ‘Good’ standard quality grade in 2019 by the EA. The EA was only able to do this because the 3 samples with PRFs attached which exceeded the Directive’s ‘Sufficient’ standard (i.e. were ‘Poor’ standard) were discounted from the annual sampling record under the ‘short term pollution’ provision. In other words, they were not taken into account when determining the bathing water’s annual quality performance, and the only samples that were taken into account were the two samples that failed the ‘Excellent’ standard, thus ultimately giving the bathing water a ‘Good’ standard grading for 2019. If this discounting had not been used, then Blackpool Central would have secured a ‘Poor’ standard grading. Not something a top class seaside resort would want advertised. Unless of course there is the political will to get the poor levels of sewage infrastructure and treatment out into the open and so argue for radical improvement.

Does such political will exist? At present the discounting system is conveniently disguising reality and manipulating the true performance level, thus effectively suppressing knowledge and the development of that political will.

The reality is that limited sampling in a bathing season, averaging out at four individual days monitoring per month and then on those sampling days confined to a single ‘snapshot’ sample, is hardly a recipe for ‘real time’ information. Nor is the fact that there is no monitoring to quantify the risk on nearly all of the days when a pollution risk forecast has been issued. The public is not being well served; and, the Directive itself almost seems designed to deliver half of an essential service. An obvious question arises: is this acceptable?

Building sewers and treatment works with adequate storage capacity to accommodate the rainy days and so forestall the discharges of poorly or untreated sewage which are presently being made is hardly the civil engineering challenge of the century. Nor is the provision of full treatment at a sewage works to ensure that the routine every-day effluent which leaves the pipeline which discharges into the sea is doing so without causing contamination (24). However as long as there is legislation on the statute book (Directive 2006/7/EC) which allows for a profound manipulation and disguising of the bathing water quality record e.g. Blackpool Central, then the Government will be able to escape from having to address this responsibility. Similarly, the public will remain in ignorance of the real levels of sewage pollution that exist as well as the serious risks to their health which they undergo when bathing in the sea at some, supposedly ‘safe’, sea bathing resorts.

Marinet’s view on this state of affairs is clear. Real and avoidable risks to public health caused by untreated or partially treated discharges of sewage are not and can never be acceptable. Now that our nation has left the European Union and the UK is once again wholly in control of these matters the Government, pressed on by sea bathers and the public in general, should be requiring the water companies to eliminate all sewage pollution arising directly from their sewerage infrastructure and sewage treatment works.

The Essential Changes Required:

The following, for reasons of public health and safety, are the essential changes which the Government should insist take place immediately:

● ‘Tertiary’ treatment is installed by the water companies at all sewage works which means that discharges to rivers or via their offshore pipeline will be entirely clean and free of all pathogens — an expectation which is not unreasonable, which is wholly affordable and which is, most importantly of all, practically achievable (24).

● The design and capacity of the national sewer system is upgraded so as to eliminate all discharges of untreated sewage from surface water sewers (combined sewer overflows / CSOs) at times of rainfall.

● The capacity of all sewage treatment works, both inland and coastal, is upgraded so as to ensure that sewage works no longer have to make emergency discharges (emergency sewage overflows / ESOs) of untreated sewage because their capacity to operate has been overloaded.

● Comprehensive biosecurity measures in agriculture are taken throughout the country to ensure that pathogenic contamination of rivers and watercourses does not arise either from the land disposal of sewage sludge from sewage treatment works or from farm-based animal slurries and manures.

Once installed and operative, Marinet believes that the combined outcome of all of the above improvements will mean that the UK will be able to proudly and truthfully declare that all of our bathing waters, without exception, are able to meet the ‘Excellent’ standard, year after year. Furthermore, instead of being shamefully 25th out of 30 in the quality league of European sea bathing areas (4) the UK will be in the list of the top five best performing countries, and even first in the field.

Is Discounting of Samples manipulating the Quality Classification of Bathing Waters?

As earlier explained, the EA is legally designating samples as potentially discountable via a provision in the Directive (25) and, following that preliminary decision, then deciding whether to actually discount them (22 and 23). Up to 15% of samples in a season may be actually discounted (eliminated) from the calculation of the quality standard (‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’, ‘Poor’) in the case of each bathing water.

Marinet has analysed this practice (26) since the introduction of the Directive, from 2015 to 2019. Analysing the use of this practice in 2019, Marinet has found that 11% of bathing waters classified as ‘Excellent’ had samples that were potentially discountable, with 7% of ‘Excellent’ bathing waters actually having samples discounted (i.e. a sewage pollution incident had occurred but that event had been removed from the need to be taken into account, so enabling ‘Excellent’ status to be retained). Of those graded ‘Good’ bathing waters, 40% had potentially discountable samples with 35% of these bathing waters actually experiencing discounting of samples. For ‘Sufficient’ bathing waters the level was 65% potential and 50% actual, and for ‘Poor’ bathing waters it was 71% potential and 71% actual.

What this means is that actual sewage pollution events are being removed (legally) from the calculation of the annual quality standard classification. It is a legal manipulation of the performance record, i.e. producing a statement of performance that does not truly reflect reality. Its use by the EA is widespread. In numerical terms the precise extent of discounting varies from year to year, but it is being applied every year at roughly 1 in 5 of bathing waters, i.e. around 80 bathing waters; and, as we have already noted, this discounting procedure is being used in waters of all quality classifications whether they are ultimately determined by the EA to be ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’.

As a result a significant number of bathing waters do not really merit the quality grading they are receiving and ought really to be downgraded. Marinet has done an analysis over the period 2015-2019 to determine how many beaches this downgrading ought to apply to in each quality classification (27). Each year differs slightly, but in 2019 this affected 19 out of 284 ‘Excellent’ bathing waters which should really have been downgraded to ‘Good’; in the case of 89 ‘Good’ bathing waters, 31 should have been downgraded to ‘Sufficient’; in the case of 20 ‘Sufficient’ bathing waters, 10 should have been downgraded to ‘Poor’; whilst in the ‘Poor’ classification 5 out of 7 bathing waters were having their true performance (already technically ‘fail’ i.e. a candidate for prohibition of bathing) manipulated.

This manipulation is legal. However it is a bad law which wilfully allows manipulation of the quality level which it is regulating, and a very bad law where manipulation is putting the public’s health at serious risk. This makes Directive 2006/7/EC a prime candidate for reform by the UK Government.
 
 
 

Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC :
Ambiguous Issues and Grey Areas of Concern

 
There are a number of issues which the legal scope of the Directive does not touch upon but which can and do have a profound effect on the outcome of sampling. These are considered now, including the issue of how clean the actual beach itself is (the sand with which sand castles are made and on which families make their camp and picnic). The Directive does not address this latter issue at all.

There are two main factors which can profoundly affect the outcome of bathing water monitoring. The first relates to the daily, routine discharges via the offshore pipeline which runs out to sea directly from the local (town) sewage works and the time of day when these discharges are made. The second concerns the dispersion and dilution of these routine discharges.

* * * * * *

The Routine Discharges and their Time of Discharge

It is important to state that discharges to sea from coastal sewage works are routine. These are the normal end of the line discharges from the sewage works without which sewage works could not function (all input has to have an output). Inland sewage works make them to rivers whilst coastal works make them to sea. Although such discharges can be made at any time, they generally occur following the times of peak input to the works from the sewers, so giving the works the capacity and rhythm to function according to a clear cycle. These discharges are normally made around 9.00 to 10.00 am following the arrival at the sewage works of the local population’s morning bathing and breakfasting and then again around 6.00 to 7.00 pm following the local populations’ return home from the day’s activities. In technical terms, this is known as the “diurnal flow” i.e. the daily peaks in inflow/outflow. Of course discharges are made at other times of the day and night for various reasons, but these discharges are generally much smaller.

In the light of this arises a key question from a bathing water quality monitoring point of view. Namely, how effective has been the treatment at the works prior to discharge? This is because the level of treatment is fundamental to the pathogenic level of the discharge.

The Dispersion and Dilution of Routine Discharges

The important issue here is, how long does it take for the discharge to dissipate and disperse uniformly within the general body of the sea and adjacent bathing water, thus eliminating ‘hot spots’ and possible uneven levels of bacterial measurement?

* * * * * *

Analysis and Discussion

Neither of the above two factors will be of concern if the level of treatment at the sewage works is top grade, meaning that the discharge from the sewage works will have effectively zero levels of bacterial and pathogenic contamination (24).

Where the results of the monitoring of sea water bathing consistently score 100% against the ‘Excellent’ standard one can generally assume that Grade A treatment levels exist, with one caveat. This is the practice of the ‘discounting of samples’ (i.e. sewage pollution events). This practice is effectively concealing poor grade discharges originating largely either from the sewage works itself, or at other times from the wider sewerage infrastructure and adjacent estuaries. Such discounting is employed routinely by the EA. In the case of ‘Excellent’ classified bathing waters, such discounting in 2019 of sewage pollution events occurred at ‘potentially’ 11% and ‘actually’ at 7% of officially ‘Excellent’ bathing sites (26).

Whilst manipulation of the true character of ‘Excellent’ sites is both worrying and dishonest, the basis for concern is even greater in the case of all those bathing waters which do not reach the ‘Excellent’ standard. This is around 30% of all English bathing waters (28). In these locations the evidence is clear: both the routine daily pipeline discharges from the local sewage works or, on a more occasional basis, from the local sewerage infrastructure and adjacent estuaries are very far from perfect and are the source of a significant risk to public health (15).

The reasons for these imperfections have already been examined so there is no need to revisit that aspect of concern, other than to repeat that they are unacceptably widespread. Instead focus needs to be placed on the consequences.

The consequences are that discharges will be characterised by pathogenic contamination. This will vary in frequency and severity according to the quality of the local sewage works and wider features of the local sewerage infrastructure, and also vary in impact due to daily changes in the weather. Thus the important question is whether the monitoring regime is accurately detecting both this varying extent and pattern of contamination?

In seeking to answer to this question it is essential to address and understand the issue of dissipation, this being the dispersion and dilution of the end of pipeline discharge in the surrounding sea and bathing water. These routine pipeline discharges are foremost in the list of sources of sewage pollution. There are two aspects to be considered.

First, what is the rate of dispersion and dilution of the discharge from the offshore pipeline within the bathing waters being sampled?

Second, knowing this rate of dissipation, how does this affect and govern the most appropriate time to sample?

When these answers are known, one can ask: does the EA’s sampling regime take account of the rate of dissipation of the discharge? Furthermore in the light of the rate of dissipation, does this rate affect the most appropriate time to sample given that there are two likely peak times of discharge (around 9.00am and 6.00pm)?

The short answer is, no. The monitoring regime set out by the Directive does not address these issues. Thus if these issues are influential in determining the monitoring result — and they are, as will now be demonstrated — what is the likely impact on the accuracy of the EA’s monitoring regime?

The rate of dissipation is governed by the following factors.

The discharge consists of non-saline water (clean or contaminated water from the sewage works) which is less dense than salty sea water. Therefore it floats to the surface and spreads out, mushroom-like, over the sea’s surface. As it spreads out local conditions such as tides, currents, waves and weather will influence the rate at which it mixes with the sea and so become diluted to the point that it is evenly dispersed throughout the local sea’s area and depth. Normally from the moment of discharge this takes up to 2 hours, and longer if the volume discharged was particularly substantial or over an extended period (29). Thus there follows what is perhaps the key monitoring question — when is the best time to sample, and where? (30).

If the sample is taken near where the pipeline discharges, the bacterial count in the sample will likely record an elevated level of contamination should the discharge not be 100% clean (i.e. has not received top grade treatment) and has not become fully diluted and dispersed.

This reality in the sea around the pipeline also has to be set against the background fact that the EA does not sample where pollution is likely to be greatest, but rather where most bathers are to be found, even though there may be people bathing near the pipeline’s discharge point. Thus if the most popular bathing spot is elsewhere, the risk to those bathers near the pipeline is being ignored.

If sampling does happen to be conducted near the pipeline because this is actually where most bathers are to be found, then the rate of dispersion and dilution also becomes important. The reasons for this are two fold.

First, if the discharge has only just been made then the worst pollution (assuming the discharge was not top grade) will be on or near the surface level of the sea rather than at 30cms (12 inches) depth. This is because non-saline water (the discharge) floats on the sea’s surface prior to mixing. Bathers are likely to be swimming in the surface water and thus be particularly exposed to its pollution.

Next, if the sample is taken at a time before maximum dilution (mixing) has occurred (which can be up to 2 hours after the time of discharge) then the sample will produce a higher contamination reading than if taken later.

It is known that the EA measures the saline content of its sample. So this will reveal whether the sample was influenced by the non-saline discharge. However, does the EA dismiss such a sample as invalid on the basis that it was not representative of the ‘true’ chemical composition of sea water in that area? The answer is not known because the EA does not record this aspect of its sampling procedure, but if it does reject this sample then this would be another example of ‘discounting samples’ even though people may be bathing in such water.

Also given the diurnal peaks in discharges, at what time of day is the EA taking its sample — before maximum dispersion or once maximum dispersion has come about? Evidence shows that this aspect of sampling is crucial (30).

Although this aspect will vary from bathing water to bathing water and indeed from day to day, it is clear that if sampling is undertaken in the ‘sweet period’ midpoint between the morning discharge and the late afternoon/early evening discharge then the level of pollution (as measured by the bacterial EC and IE indicators) is likely to be considerably lower than at other times. The evidence (30) suggests that this can influence the quality reading substantially. This evidence reveals that in an area experiencing contaminated discharges, a sample’s reading can vary between ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’ depending solely on the timing of the actual sample.

Although the monitoring data published by the EA in relation to sampling times is limited, i.e. it is not recorded on its website (31), the evidence that does exist appears to suggest that monitoring is generally conducted by monitoring teams at some point between mid-morning and mid-afternoon (32). Given that monitoring dates are pre-set at the beginning of the season, precise times inevitably vary in order to reflect tide times — low water/high water — and the need of the sampling team to visit a number of different bathing locations on a particular sampling day. However the thesis is clear. If the ‘sweet period’ is being favoured by the EA at locations where discharges are not top grade, a further element of ‘discounting’ is almost certainly occurring.

Conclusions: Character of Discharges and the Accuracy of Monitoring

The overall conclusion is: both the actual use of and the additional opportunities for ‘discounting’ are endemic throughout the monitoring system as practiced by the English Environment Agency. The Directive specifically allows this, and takes no account of these additional opportunities in its current formulation. As we observed earlier: a law is a bad law if it allows, intentionally or unintentionally, a manipulation of the monitoring regime it has established. To be clear, manipulation of monitoring leads to inaccurate results which, in turn, leads to a false measurement of sewage contamination and thus an unreliable classification of water quality.

Marinet has recorded above this additional evidence of discounting, on the one hand showing that the site which is actually monitored is not necessarily the bathing location experiencing the highest level of sewage pollution and on the hand that the sampling time is favouring the ‘best sampling outcome’, thus demonstrating how supplementary unorthodox manipulation of monitoring is possible. The Directive is allowing this manipulation and so, now that the United Kingdom has sovereign powers in this field of public health protection, it must make Directive 2006/7/EC a prime candidate for reform by the UK Parliament.

Also when reform is on the agenda, and Marinet believes it has recorded strong evidence of the need for reform, then the new law should also address an area which the existing Directive wholly ignores. Namely, the quality in health terms of the sand itself on the beach at bathing resorts.

Sewage Pathogens in Beach Sand

Although micro-organisms are naturally plentiful in beach sands, there is now a catalogue of worldwide scientific studies (33) which suggests that beach sands not only contain a pathogenic element but that the origin of these pathogens may also be largely due to sewage in the surrounding environment (sea); and, that the levels of pathogens may actually be higher in the sand than in the sea water which is being monitored under the Directive.

Each of these statements is qualified by ‘may’ because, as these scientific studies (33) state, the research evidence is still not robust enough to be absolutely categorical. However the evidence which does exist strongly suggests that the pathogens found in beach sand do reflect the same pathogens to be found in inadequately treated sewage discharges. There is epidemiological evidence of an association between gastro-intestinal illness and people coming into intimate contact with sand (i.e. eating food with sandy fingers) and also playing in such sand; and, perhaps surprisingly, evidence that the highest levels of pathogens in beach sand occur at the high water mark. In this latter regard, the high water mark is the area at the top of the beach where incoming waves, upon breaking, wash up to and sink into the sand. Thus pathogens, if present in the sea due to poorly treated sewage discharges, will become readily absorbed into the sand at this point and, once absorbed beneath the beach’s top layer, they are able to survive longer. Hence, a hot-spot is created as some scientific studies have suggested (33).

The EU Directive, 2006/7/EC, does not require the assessment of the quality of beach sand and so this is not part of the EA’s quality profile of English bathing beaches. However if the sea bathing law is to be reformed, as we have strongly recommended, then this aspect needs to be evaluated too. Where sewage is concerned, the imperatives of public health and the public’s protection must be paramount.
 
 
 

A Gold Standard : Marinet’s Recommendations for Improvement

 
Earlier evidence in this report has shown that there is both a great need and also scope for improvement in the quality of English sea bathing waters.

More importantly, now that the UK is to take back control of its own laws following departure from the EU, this means that there is the opportunity to reform the UK’s Regulations on Bathing Water Quality (21) in order to ensure the health and safety of the public. Therefore this section is concerned with Marinet’s recommendations as to what, at a minimum, these reforms should embrace.

Prior to listing these recommendations, it must be said that these reforms need to cover two issues.

The first issue concerns the nature of the sampling regime so that the official portrait of bathing water quality at bathing sites is genuinely accurate.

The second issue concerns the level of treatment supplied to sewage discharges, along with the adequacy and capacity of the sewerage infrastructure associated with the sewage treatment works.

Also prior to listing our recommendations, Marinet believes it would be helpful for the reader if it were to be stated where Marinet is content regarding the sampling regime and sewerage system, and where Marinet is not content. This will help to make the list of recommendations easier to understand.

The Sampling Regime

• Marinet is content with the existing law’s ‘bacterial indicators’ (Escherichia coli and Intestinal enterococci) and the epidemiological principles behind them.

• is content with the sampling technique in terms of sampling depth and the equipment employed (sampling at one-third metre depth using sterilised equipment and the storage of samples at controlled temperatures with no exposure to daylight).

• is content with the testing deadline and laboratory procedures (all samples to have commenced analysis within 24 hours using the prescribed scientific methodology).

Where Marinet is not content regarding the sampling regime:

• is not content with the limited sampling whereby only one sample is taken on the sampling day, thereby providing a ‘single snapshot’ rather than taking samples throughout the day, especially in the light of the fact that the bacterial level will vary throughout the day due to the influence and gradual dispersion of the twice daily (diurnal) discharges of treated/partially treated effluent made from the local sewage works’ offshore pipeline; presently, the timing of the single sample more often than not occurs at the ‘sweet moment’ in the mid-point between the two diurnal discharges of treated effluent, and this is neither satisfactory nor representative.

• is not content with the EA’s single sample on sampling day being taken only from the location identified as having the most bathers; the existing Directive provides an option, either take the sample from the location expected to have the highest level of pollution or from the location where most people bathe. Those people bathing near an offshore outfall are those at greatest risk, and if a visitor to the area they are unlikely to be aware of the outfall’s existence. Therefore it is essential that their circumstances and exposure risk are recognised. This is solved by taking a sample(s) from both this location with the highest expected level of pollution as well as at the location where most people bathe.

• is not content with the ability for samples (up to 15%) to be discounted from the quality record when such samples breach the bacteriological quality standard on account of ‘short term pollution’ events; such discounting negates the purpose of the law which is to protect the health and safety of the public and amounts to serious manipulation of the quality record.

• is not content that the EA does not use specialist sampling bottles, such as the van Dorn bottle which is designed for taking samples from shallow water, thus ensuring that the sampling bottle opens remotely when in the correct sampling position and closed as soon as full, thereby eliminating the chance of cross contamination.

• is not content with the Environment Agency not employing a local public health laboratory to undertake analysis, when to do so both simplifies transport of samples and facilitates a greater frequency of sampling; also, the bacteria in samples are subject to die-off, hence the earlier that the counting of bacteria is commenced (within the maximum 24 hour time limit) the lower the die-off rate and the more accurate quality reading will be.

• is not content with a limited annual sampling regime (20 samples within a ‘summer season’ of 153 days) which prevents the EA’s forecasted pollution events (‘pollution risk forecasts’ / PRFs) from being verified by sampling. These pollution forecasts can amount to around 50% or more days in each month at some locations, with only 4 actual days in the month being tested and because these testing days are pre-set they do not necessarily correspond with the daily forecasted possible pollution events. As a result a substantial number of pollution events are being missed which, in turn, distorts and devalues both the integrity of the law as well as the individual bathing site’s annual quality rating of ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’.

• is not content that the EA, presumably with governmental approval, has reduced the seasonal sampling at some bathing locations from 20 samples to as little as 5 or 6 samples (just once a month rather than 4 times per month). This occurs at bathing waters with a consistent ‘Excellent’ quality grading, but this frequency of sampling is so restricted that it can hardly be considered to be representative, i.e. just one single sample from a total of 30/31 days and likely taken at the ‘sweet moment’ in relation to any local sewage effluent discharge regime.

• is not content that the current sampling regime excludes the testing of the quality of local beach sand. There is clear evidence in published scientific research that at recreational beaches the beach sand has high levels of pathogenic sewage-related bacteria, especially around the high water mark at those sites where poorly treated effluent discharges are being made via the offshore pipeline or are arriving from nearby estuaries or elsewhere in the local sewerage infrastructure. Although this is an area of testing which is not covered by the Directive it clearly should be because beach users, regardless of whether they bathe or not, are being exposed to a similar public health and safety risk.

• is not content with the level of monitoring and assessment being undertaken at bathing sites which are located near areas of estuarine mudflats, many of which are consistently recording a ‘Sufficient’ or ‘Poor’ quality reading. The mudflats of estuaries readily retain bacteria (34) and if the rivers feeding the estuary are polluted by poorly treated or untreated sewage from inland urban areas and also by run-off from the slurry and manure at livestock farms in the estuary’s catchment area then these mudflats will contain seriously elevated levels of pathogenic bacteria. Hence tidal waters which cover these mudflats and then travel to the recreational bathing area are, almost inevitably, going to be polluted. Much more serious consideration needs to be given as to whether these official bathing areas are safe areas. Thus the question needs to be asked : should bathing be prohibited in bathing areas adversely affected by contaminated estuarine waters? There is strong evidence that this answer should be, yes.

• is not content that sampling and testing for bathing water quality is only undertaken during the summer months (beginning of May to end of September) because people enter the sea throughout the year, particularly surfers and members of bathing clubs. It is in winter months when rainfall is highest. Thus it is during winter that pollution events will be most common, caused by rainfall overloading the sewers which in turn causes combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and emergency overflows (EOs). As a result sewage pollution levels can become very high. Yet the EA does no testing nor performs any pollution risk forecasting (PRFs), therefore there is no way that people who enter the sea during winter months can have clear knowledge of the risk.

• is not content that the UK’s performance — measured by percentage of beaches attaining ‘Excellent’ water quality under the Directive ‐ is only 25th relative to the other 30 European countries (2018 figure). This is an appalling statistic. Moreover, given the manipulation that the English authorities (both legally and by unorthodox procedures) employ in the delivery of the monitoring regime which Marinet has documented in this report, this statistic likely conceals a worse performance. Why do we want to be in a candidate for the label, the ‘dirtiest bathing waters in Europe’?

We now move on from the sampling regime to the matter of the sewerage system and the general standard of sewage treatment.

The Standard of Sewage Treatment

In recent years there has been a level of investment by the waters companies in England which has enabled many sewage works to be upgraded so that nearly all sewage works now provide treatment to what in the industry is known as ‘secondary level’. In lay terms, this means that all solids and waste water are now treated to a level where the sewage’s biological oxygen demand is greatly reduced and, importantly, where around 90% of pathogens (whether bacteria, viruses or parasites) are removed before the solid material left at the end of the treatment process (sewage sludge) is either incinerated, sent to landfill or supplied to farmers whilst the other end product of the sewage works, waste water (effluent), is either discharged to river or the sea. This is a considerable improvement upon ‘historical’ practices — historical in the sense that by 2010 the UK had undertaken new investment sufficient to ensure that around 98% of all sewage works serving urban populations of 2,000 people or more were providing ‘secondary treatment’ to normal foul water flows, i.e. during periods of normal weather, not involving heavy or prolonged rainfall (35).

Nevertheless the EU’s Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 91/271/EEC, which legally mandated these changes, did not extend as far as ‘tertiary treatment’. Tertiary treatment inactivates all pathogens by exposure of the final aqueous effluent to high level ultraviolet light or alternative chemical treatment, e.g. chlorination followed by sulphur dioxide infusion. This level of treatment makes the effluent discharge wholly safe to the degree that it can be classed as clean water (24). Given the reality portrayed in this report, it will come as no surprise that many inland and coastal sewage works do not have tertiary treatment, although the practicality and financial cost of its installation in the context of the overall capital cost of the sewage treatment works is minor.

Thus to address the question : where is Marinet definitely not content regarding the sewerage system?

• is not content that many sewage treatment plants are undersized in terms of their capacity. Capacity is measured in terms of the volume of ‘dry day flow’ (volume of foul water arising on a day without rainfall) that can be accommodated in any 24 hour period, e.g. a sewage works is normally designed to manage 3 or 4 times its dry day flow. This capacity can be further extended by the use of extra storage systems which can hold foul water during exceptional periods of rainfall, releasing it for treatment once those weather conditions have abated. However many plants struggle with capacity, with the result that when periods of heavy or extended rainfall are experienced they simply have to overflow (emergency overflow / EO) and as a result discharges of wholly untreated or very partially treated sewage are made direct to rivers or the sea. In Marinet’s opinion, this under-capacity is a dereliction of duty by government and the water companies. No country, let alone a rich and technologically competent one like the UK, should be operating basic infrastructure at such a deficient level when the prime function of the infrastructure is the protection of public health and safety.

• is not content that many surface water sewers, designed to carry just rainfall from roads and paved areas and so operate with low levels of pathogenic contamination, are receiving foul water, whether this input of foul water is due either to misconnections by builders or because the water company is using the surface water sewer as an overflow in times of heavy or extended rainfall (combined sewer overflow / CSO). When surface water sewers discharge, whether to river or the sea, their discharge has frequently received no treatment. Therefore if the surface water sewer’s discharge has been contaminated by foul water, especially when enrolled to serve as a foul water sewer overflow, the pathogenic level of the discharge can be very substantial. Good sense argues that this country should not be tolerating and failing to remediate misconnections by builders. Even more fundamentally, under no circumstances should the villain prove to be the water company itself by using surface water sewers as a foul water overflow system. This can and does lead to substantial contamination of bathing waters. It is a prime reason why many bathing waters cannot comply with the ‘Excellent’ quality standard. These practices are a serious risk to public health and safety; and further, when CSOs are operating in this way the sea bathing public has little knowledge or warning that it is happening.

• is not content with the standard of sewage treatment at many coastal and inland sewage works. There is absolutely no technical reason why discharges of water (effluent) from sewage works should not be fully treated and thus good enough, in pathogenic terms, to qualify as clean freshwater. Attainment of this quality is achieved by ensuring that all final effluent receives tertiary treatment (the inactivation of all pathogens) either by the use of high level ultra-violet (UV) light or by the administration of chlorine accompanied by its subsequent removal using sulphur dioxide. The only excuse is that the water companies are not prepared to commit to the financial capital and running costs required, and government is disinterested in ensuring that the law requires such standards to prevail. Methane is an abundant commodity in a sewage works as a result of secondary treatment of the bio-solids so there is no shortage of raw energy to generate the UV light, thereby considerably reducing the cost of the tertiary treatment process. Chlorine is a chemical widely available and in use by the water industry in the purification of drinking water, so there is no shortage of expertise. What is in short supply is the lack of will and determination by the water companies to ensure that their effluent discharges attain the highest standard, with this lack of determination similarly reflected by government. In Marinet’s view this is not only a shortcoming easily remedied but also, given the public health and safety risks attached, a profound neglect of duty.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We now specifically address what Marinet terms a Gold Standard for the treatment of sewage. In other words, our recommendations to ensure that virtually all sea bathing waters are able to attain the ‘Excellent’ quality standard, as in other European countries such as Cyprus and Malta (4). In making these recommendations we are conscious of the need to be realistic, which means that these recommendations need to be both practically achievable and affordable. As a result we expect the UK Government and the water companies to respond positively to these reforms, displaying an appreciation of both their practicality and necessity.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 
 
 

Marinet’s Gold Standard for the Sampling Regime

 
All sampling to be decentralised. Whilst superintended and recorded nationally by the Environment Agency, there is no inherent need for samples to be taken either by EA officers or to be sent to an EA laboratory (currently all samples, regardless of location, are sent to Exeter within a 24 hours deadline). The training of samplers is a straightforward process, so sampling can be carried out by staff from either local authorities, local universities or public health laboratories. These bodies similarly have the facilities to breed and analyse the cultures from samples to produce the quality reading, there being no great scientific complexity in this, i.e. it is essentially routine. The advantage of decentralisation is that it is likely to reduce costs and also facilitate a greater frequency of sampling. All results can still be submitted to and administered by the EA centrally. The existing methodology governing the taking of samples (i.e. depth, storage conditions of samples and deadline for analysis) is to be maintained, but with greater precaution given to prevent contamination of the receptacle at the time of sampling by using better designed sampling bottles.

Improving the Regularity of Sampling. The sampling regime needs to be once every 8 days. The importance of this new sampling regime means samples are taken every 1 week + 1 day + 1 hour (between 8.00 am and 8.00 pm), thus ensuring that every day in the week and all daytime times are sampled throughout the season, so strengthening the bathing water’s quality profile in order to iron out any idiosyncratic characteristics in the local sewage works’ input/output and overall treatment regime. It will require the summer sampling season to be extended by one week so as to still accommodate 20 samples per season. This means that the bathing season runs either from the commencement of the 18th week in the calendar (1st week of May, as at present) until the end of the 40th week in the calendar (1st week of October, thus ending one week later); or alternatively, the bathing season runs from the 17th week (last week of April, and so begins one week earlier) to the 39th week (last week of September, as at present). This new sampling regime results in a summer season of 161 days, whereas it is currently 153 days. It ensures a sampling frequency of at least 4 samples per month, evenly spaced, and importantly the addition of 1 day and 1 hour in the cycle ensures that the sampling regime monitors at some point during the season every day and every hour in the week and day (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so on). The result is a more representative and standardised portrait (characterisation) of bathing water quality. Marinet also has a recommendation with regard to the winter season, see below.

Increase in the Range and Number of Samples per visit. The sampling visit (every 1 week + 1 day + 1 hour) will take 4 samples at different times in the day. These are between 8.00 and 11.00hrs, between 11.00 and 14.00hrs, between 14.00 and 17.00 hrs, and between 17.00 and 20.00hrs. This ensures that the full character of the bathing day is sampled and this regime also accounts for any variation arising in the daily discharge regime from the local sewage works (29 and 30). In addition, both the area where bacterial levels are expected to be highest as well as the area where the most people bathe are to be sampled, and not just where most people bathe as is the case with the current sampling regime. This will produce 8 samples overall which will be analysed at the local laboratory (see decentralisation recommendation above). When analysis has been completed and notified to the EA the sample with the highest reading will be used by the EA as the one for determining the quality status classification.

Abolition of the Discounting of Samples. The practice of discounting samples due to ‘short term pollution’ events which are not ‘normally expected’ (discounting can legally be up to 15% of samples in a season, i.e. 3 out of 20) is to be entirely abolished. This practice is wholly unacceptable. It makes a mockery of both the system and the protection of the health and safety of the bathing public to remove samples recording sewage pollution when the specific purpose the law is to protect and safeguard the public from exposure to the pathogens arising from sewage pollution.

Testing of all ‘Pollution Risk Forecasts’. Daily pollution risk forecasts (PRFs) serve a very important function. They are daily predicting possible sewage pollution events based on data known to the EA, and are doing so for sites known to be prone to sewage pollution. It is therefore essential that PRFs are verified, both for the benefit of the public so that evidence about the true extent of the pollution event exists in the public domain, and also so that evidence exists to correctly inform that bathing water’s annual performance record and quality standard. However there are two key problems with PRFs at the present time.

The first problem is that most PRFs are not subject to testing. Thus whether the forecasted pollution is real or false is unknown.

The second problem, given that no testing has occurred, is that the actual pollution events which determine the bathing water’s quality record are falling off the radar. The result is that a bathing water which experiences a significant number of unverified PRFs ends up with a quality grading that is, very likely, considerably overrated. Hence a serious deception is taking place.

Therefore if the sampling regime is decentralised, as Marinet has recommended, it becomes possible for bathing waters experiencing a PRF to have supplementary on-the-day testing. This additional sampling can either be performed by the sampling teams operating the new weekly regime (once every 1 week + 1 day + 1 hour) by making additional visits to the PRF sites or, probably more practically, by running an additional sampling team for this specific purpose. PRF sampling would mirror the new standard sampling regime of 8 samples during the course of the day, as described above. This will inevitably result in additional monitoring costs, but the essential point is that action must be taken to ensure that each PRF event is sampled and tested as to its veracity. These additional PRF samples and analysis would, naturally, become part of the overall annual record for the purpose of calculating a bathing water’s annual performance and quality standard.

Prohibition of Bathing at ‘Poor’ Bathing Waters. At present a bathing water can undergo a run of 4 or 5 annual ‘Poor’ quality classifications before the EA and government declassify the bathing water and prohibit bathing. Around 2% of English bathing waters (8 out of 400) are consistently in this category. If discounting of ‘short term pollution’ events were no longer allowed this figure would rise to 3% (12 out of 400) and if PRFs were actually fully sampled the figure could double or treble e.g. 5% (20 out of 400) and perhaps be even greater still. ‘Poor’ graded bathing waters are insanitary and therefore it is essential that they are eliminated without delay from the official list of bathing areas in order to safeguard public health. This is a specific Marinet recommendation, with ‘Poor’ bathing waters only being reintroduced after the causes of their non-compliance have been rectified, i.e. upgraded sewage treatment works in their locality.

It is also possible that a large number of these ‘Poor’ (failing) bathing waters are located near to estuaries whose extensive mudflats are trapping bacterial and other pathogenic pollution arising from inland pollution sources, and this retained pollution in the mudflats is making non-compliance a far more complicated problem to rectify other than by just improving the local sewage treatment works. It is therefore a specific recommendation of Marinet that government and the EA commission a specific study of this issue in order to compel the water companies to undertake a more comprehensive course of remedial action in order to enable these bathing waters to comply with safe standards. To do otherwise is, in Marinet’s view, to wilfully ignore a hidden public health problem at a significant number of very important, almost iconic, English bathing waters (see footnote 10 and Appendix C).

Testing of Beach Sands for Pathogens from Sewage. There is clear evidence (33) that some beach sands, particularly at high water mark and at bathing water locations experiencing intermittent sewage pollution, contain elevated levels of sewage-related pathogens and, in some cases, significantly so. Thus there is a clear risk to public health and safety. Therefore it is Marinet’s recommendation that when sampling is undertaken at all bathing locations on the 1 week + 1 day + 1 hour basis the sampling team also take samples of sand along the full length of the recreational bathing beach (4 or 5 samples evenly spaced apart along the high water mark) and that the performance of these beach sand samples be similarly analysed and rated against the bacteriological indicators (Escherichia coli and Intestinal enterococci) and quality rated in the same manner. These results need to be similarly graded for ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ and ‘Poor’ quality and be reported annually on the EA national website as an additional parameter for measuring bathing water quality. If the ‘Poor’ standard is consistently recorded, prohibition of access to the beach must be enforced until such time as remedial action has been taken. This is required in order to protect the health and safety of the public.

A Winter Sampling Regime. There is clear evidence that many, if not most, bathing locations experience winter bathing by bathing clubs and in a significant number there is use of the inshore waters by surfers. At those bathing waters experiencing intermittent sewage pollution these events will be intensified in winter months due to elevated levels of rainfall. Hence pathogenic levels in these locations are likely to be more persistent and of a higher level than during the summer months. It is therefore essential that monitoring of all bathing waters using the bacteriological indicators is undertaken (Escherichia coli and Intestinal enterococci) during the winter period (40th/41st calendar week to 16th/17th week, see earlier definition of the summer season) and are quality rated in the same manner — ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient’ and ‘Poor’.

At present there is no winter monitoring, so no precedent or design for a monitoring programme. Therefore Marinet’s recommendation is constrained by this lack of experience. Any recommendation will also be constrained by the fact that weather during the winter can be very inhospitable, both in terms of wind and temperature, so the practicalities of a design and the need for the safety of the team undertaking it must be carefully weighed. The average wind speed in UK summer period (4th April to 12th October) is 11.5 mph, i.e. no greater than 3 on the Beaufort Scale (36). Therefore using this as the safety benchmark, monitoring teams should not be operating during winter months once the wind speed exceeds 3 on the Beaufort Scale (max. 12mph) or once the air temperature falls below 5°C (41°F). If either of these parameters are exceeded, then monitoring is delayed to a day when these parameters can be met, thus ensuring that a full day’s monitoring out in the open air can be safely undertaken.

Given reduced bathing in the winter season — 40th/41st calendar week to the 16th/17th week — it is not reasonable to sustain an argument for a sampling regime comparable to the frequency of the summer season. Nevertheless it is Marinet’s recommendation that during the winter season a pre-set sampling regime for every bathing water be established for at least once a month using the full Marinet recommended summer sampling regime (see above) with these results published on the EA bathing water website and locally on the beach. The exact day of monitoring is of course subject to the above sampling safety parameters. If weather conditions cause sampling to be deferred, then the next viable day is used.

In addition, it is recommended that the EA continue its daily ‘pollution risk forecasts’ so that additional sampling using the same sampling regime be undertaken on those days when the EA has issued a PRF, again subject to the earlier defined monitoring safety parameters. These results need to be similarly published nationally on the EA website and locally on the beach by the local Council.

This recommendation is based on the need for maintenance of the public’s health and safety. It ensures that data, although inevitably imperfect due to weather constraints, is available and informs what is currently a data void.
 
 
 

Marinet’s Gold Standard for the Sewage Treatment system

 
None of Marinet’s foregoing recommendations would be necessary, or at least largely superfluous, if the sewage treatment system were Grade A and all bathing waters were able to meet the ‘Excellent’ standard 99.9% of the time. The fact that all English sewage treatment works (STW) are not Grade A and that only around 65% to 70% (figure annually variable) of English sea bathing waters can meet the ‘Excellent’ standard is a clear testament to this.

Tertiary Treatment. The remedy, and this is Marinet’s paramount recommendation overall, is for all sewage treatment works to be equipped to deliver full ‘tertiary treatment’ so that the discharge from their sea outfalls is of clean water that is entirely pathogenpathogens 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. free (24).

There is absolutely no reason why this cannot be delivered, technically speaking. The only ‘technical hitch’ is that water companies do not want to spend the money to build and operate such facilities and government refuses to legislate to compel them to do so. The UK does not operate a railway or aeroplane industry where we allow only 65% of trains and planes to attain Grade A serviceability, with the remainder prone to failure or worse. So why is this essential public service of sewage treatment operated with such a diminished level of performance, thereby creating wholly unwarranted risks to public health and safety? There can be no justification. The time for correction is now and it must involve every sewage treatment works, without exemption.

Adequate Storm Storage Capacity. Allied to the building of the facilities which can deliver the highest standard of treatment at each sewage works is the need to ensure that every site has sufficient storage capacity for periods of heavy or prolonged rainfall. When this capacity exists then overflows become virtually obsolete (save for rare events involving mechanical or electrical failure) and all sewage receives full tertiary treatment. A parallel is providing a house with enough rooms to accommodate all members of a family in a civilised manner, rather than slumming it. At the moment we are ‘slumming’ the capacity of STWs in far too many cases, with the result that combined sewer overflows/CSOs and Emergency Overflow/EOs are occurring at many STWs on a routine basis.

Sewerage Infrastructure. The crossover between surface water and foul water sewers is a primary cause of the overloading of sewage works. Therefore eliminating this crossover is absolutely essential. To ensure that all sewage works can operate to Grade A performance levels, Marinet has an additional key recommendation. This requires all sewer networks to function with surface and foul water sewers operating entirely separately, i.e. building new sewerage infrastructure where necessary. This guarantees that no sewage works can ever be overloaded by surface water entering it at times of rainfall.

When these features of the Gold Standard exist the UK will have a sewage treatment system that is first class. The consequence of this is that all bathing waters will also be first class.

The problems described in this report will only be solved when decisions have been taken to eradicate the problem at its root causes – namely: the installation of universal tertiary treatment and adequate storage capacity at sewage works, allied to an elimination of the overloading of the sewerage system due to the crossover between surface and foul water sewers which causes overloading at the sewage works in the first place.

Sewage treatment systems of this calibre operate in many countries (4 and 24). At the moment this badge of honour is conspicuously missing in England and throughout the UK, greatly to our shame.
 
 
 

Conclusion

 
The current performance of UK bathing sites is very poor when measured against our European counterparts, being 25th in a table of 30 in terms of sites meeting the ‘Excellent’ standard (2018 data). In England, this translates into only 68% (2015 to 2019 average figure) of its bathing waters.

The reality is likely considerable worse. This is because the recording of performance levels is being manipulated, both legally and due to additional poor and unorthodox monitoring procedures in order to produce results better than those merited. This is done in the following ways.

First, there is a legal provision in the Directive which allows the discounting of poor performing samples from the annual quality record of bathing waters. This is being employed potentially at 1 in 5 and actually at 1 in 7 English bathing waters (37). Although this is being primarily used at the poor performing bathing waters, it is also being used at potentially ay 11% and actually at 7% of ‘Excellent’ graded beaches (2019 figures). This means that these ‘Excellent’ graded bathing waters ought probably to be downgraded to ‘Good’, and a significant number of the lower graded bathing waters (‘Good’ and ‘Sufficient’) warrant downgrading for the same reason.

Second, the Directive allows for monitoring to be undertaken at either the place where quality is likely to be poorest (i.e. in the vicinity of a pipeline discharging poorly treated sewage) or where most bathers are bathing. In England monitoring is being done where most bathers are bathing. Thus the poorest quality areas in a bathing water (near the pipeline) are being excluded, thus skewing the true overall quality measurement of the bathing water.

Third, discharges are made from the local sewage works at two peak discharge times (around 9.00am and 6.00pm) and these discharges can take up to 2 hours to fully disperse. If these discharges are of poor quality, bathing in the discharge affected waters before full dispersion has occurred will result in an elevated level of exposure to sewage-borne pathogens; and similarly, bathing after full dispersion will produce a lower level of exposure. Therefore only monitoring bathing water quality after full dispersion has occurred will produce a skewed result. Evidence suggest that all monitoring of English bathing waters by the Environment Agency occurs after full dispersion, thus suppressing the recording of temporary, but real, pollution peaks. Research evidence suggests that this bias in sampling times can significantly influence performance against the Directive’s quality standards (30).

Fourth, monitoring is confined to 20 samples per bathing season (1st May to 30th September) which averages out a single sample once every week or four times per month (local practice varies). This is a limited ‘snapshot’ portrait of quality performance. Monitoring in England also includes the issuing of daily ‘pollution risk forecasts’ by the Environment Agency at individual bathing waters when sewage related pollution is thought likely. These forecasts can occur on up to around half the days in each month, i.e. Blackpool Central in May, August and September 2019. However the EA has no procedure for verifying these pollution risk forecasts, unless the preset sampling regime of 20 sampling days per season happens to coincide with one of these events. Thus most pollution forecasts are unverified and, as a consequence, it is likely that a significant number of pollution events affecting English bathing waters are being excluded from the performance record, thus skewing the quality performance grading.

Hence the overall conclusion in the light of these facts is that the official record published by the government of annual English bathing waters is not just showing a widespread possibility of bathing water quality being influenced by sewage pollution (1 in 3 bathing waters), but that the level of overall quality is very likely considerably lower due to procedures which allow the measurement of the quality performance and its recording to be manipulated.

Other areas of real concern identified include the influence of pathogens being retained in estuaries (including serious pathogens derived from agricultural practices in the estuary’s catchment) and being subsequently released from mudflats in the estuary to influence neighbouring bathing waters, and also the contamination of beach sands themselves, particularly at high water mark where beach users predominate, by pathogens left there by the sea’s waves which have been contaminated by local sewage discharges. Thus the health of beach users is being adversely impacted, even though they may not have been bathing.

The report highlights the principal causes and reasons for this coastal sewage pollution. Namely, deficiencies in the sewer infrastructure in England, both inland and coastal, which results in discharges or untreated or only very partially treated sewage during times of rainfall, and also the failure of many sewage works to provide ‘tertiary treatment’ (full treatment) of sewage which is necessary in order to inactivate all pathogens in the normal effluent discharge from a sewage works.

To remedy this situation of poor practices in the monitoring and grading of bathing water quality along with the poor standards currently existing in England’s sewerage infrastructure and treatment works, the report recommends a Gold Standard for performance levels and practices.

This Gold Standard is designed from a practical and economically affordable perspective in order to ensure that all bathing waters in England can consistently meet the ‘Excellent’ quality standard. The report notes that the UK now has, as a result of its departure from the European Union, the sovereign legislative and administrative power to bring about these improvements which are made essential by the prime need to protect public health and safety. The report recommends that this power be immediately employed.
 
 
 

Appendix A :

 
Marinet: Summary Analysis of English Bathing Water Quality, 2015 to 2019

The annual sea Bathing Water Quality assessment undertaken by the Environment Agency (EA), in accordance with the regulations set out in EU (European Union) Directive 2006/7/EC, is concerned with establishing whether sea bathing waters are being polluted by sewage and, if so, to what degree and whether this pollution leads to a hazard to health.

In terms of assessing quality, which effectively means the level of sewage-originating pathogens present in the bathing water, the EA/EU standards classify the bathing waters as ‘excellent’,’ good’, ‘sufficient’ or ‘poor’. Table A in this pamphlet records the EA’s quality classification for English beaches for the period 2015 to 2019. A beach which is classed as ‘excellent’ is considered to carry a very low hazard to health based on a low presence of sewage-originating pathogens. The subsequent quality classifications — ‘good’, ‘sufficient’ and ‘poor’ — increase their rating of the risk based on a rising measurement of the presence of sewage-originating pathogens, their presence being largely due to the discharges of treated/untreated human sewage but also including a degree of animal related contamination where farms are an influence.

Depending on the year in question (2015 to 2019, ref. Table A) EA data records that between 65% and 71% of beaches are classed as ‘excellent’, between 22% and 26% are classed as ‘good’, between 5% and 7% are classed as ‘sufficient’ and between 1% and 2% are classed as ‘poor’.

However this assessment conceals a legal ability (provided for in the EU Directive’s regulations) to massage the quality performance data. This legal massaging is possible because up to 15% of samples can be discounted from the sampling record due to ‘short term pollution’ events (STPs). A short term pollution event is when high levels of sewage-originating pathogens are present in the sea as a result of a discharge from a sewage treatment works and/or associated sewer overflows arising during periods of heavy rainfall, or are brought to the sea bathing area from a neighbouring estuary and which, in this instance, may contain agricultural input. Thus the quality assessment system is actually able to eliminate sewage-related pollution events from the overall annual quality record.

The use of this discounting and massaging of the quality figures is being used in the assessment of beaches of every quality (‘excellent’ to ‘poor’). In the years 2015 to 2019 between 4% and 7% of ‘excellent’ rated beaches were being massaged in this way, between 23% and 35% of ‘good’ beaches were similarly massaged, along with between 35% and 52% of ‘sufficient’ beaches and between 12% and 71% of ‘poor’ beaches — the level of massaging depending on the year in question, ref. Table C.

Marinet has analysed the impact of this massaging (the discounting of short term pollution events from the quality record). In the period 2015 to 2019 (i.e. depending on the year in question) the range of ‘excellent’ beaches needs to be restated by a reduction of between 3% and 5%, for ‘good’ beaches a reduction of between 3% and 6%, for ‘sufficient’ beaches an increase of between 3% and 6% and for ‘poor’ beaches an increase of between 2% and 3% (again, depending on the year in question), ref. Table E.

Thus the true quality performance of English bathing beaches is being manipulated (legally) by a sampling and quality assessment system which eliminates serious sewage pollution events from the quality record ‐ i.e. precisely those events which the system is, ostensibly, meant to be assessing and so protecting the public from.

This ‘legal dishonesty’ in stating the true record in quality performance might be a little easier to tolerate if UK beaches were performing relatively well against European beaches as a whole, ref. Table F. However the truth is that in terms of ‘excellent’ quality beaches the UK is 25th out of 30 countries (with 63.2% of UK beaches classed as ‘excellent’ relative to 85.% for European countries as a whole). And, if the Marinet adjustment of reducing the ‘excellent’ performance by 2% in 2018 were applied, the UK would be 26th out of 30 countries. In short, a worryingly poor performance record from the point of view of UK sea bathers, and very poor performance record compared to other European countries.

Table A
Environment Agency: English Beaches – Bathing Water Quality Record (Official Published Record)

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Excellent
Total and %

255 / 65%

275 / 70%

260 / 66%

271 / 67%

284 / 71%

Good
Total and %

104 / 26%

94 / 24%

103 / 26%

103 / 26%

89 / 22%

Sufficient
Total and %

26 / 7%

19 / 5%

23 / 6%

21 / 5%

20 / 5%

Poor
Total and %

8 / 2%

5 / 1%

6 / 2%

8 / 2%

7 / 2%

Overall:
Total and %

392 / 100%

393 / 100%

392 / 100%

403 / 100%

400 / 100%

 

Table B
Environment Agency: English Beaches ‐ Number and % of beaches in each quality classification which have NOT been subject to ‘Sample Discounting’, potential or actual (Official Published Record).

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Excellent, total and %
(total / % in category, ref. Table A)

244 / 96%

(255 / 100%)

259 / 94%

(275 / 100%)

237 / 91%

(260 / 100%)

258 / 95%

(271 / 100%)

254 / 89%

(284 / 100%)

Good, total and %
(total / % in category, ref. Table A)

67 / 64%

(104 / 100%)

62 / 66%

(94 / 100%)

70 / 68%

(103 / 100%)

68 / 66%

(103 / 100%)

53 / 60%

(89 / 100%)

Sufficient, total and %
(total / % in category, ref. Table A)

12 / 48%

(25 / 100%)

8 / 42%

(19 / 100%)

14 / 61%

(23 / 100%)

10 / 48%

(21 / 100%)

7 / 35%

(20 / 100%)

Poor, total and %
(total / % in category, ref. Table A)

4 / 50%

(8 / 100%)

3 / 60%

(5 / 100%)

3 / 50%

(6 / 100%)

4 / 50%

(8 / 100%)

2 / 29%

(7 / 100%)

Total number of beaches of all categories with no discounting (potential or actual) and as a % of all beaches, (with ref. Table A)

327 / 83%

(392 / 100%)

332 / 85%

(393 / 100%)

324 / 83%

(392 / 100%)

40 / 84%

(403 / 100%)

316 / 79%

(400 / 100%)

 

Table C
Environment Agency: English Beaches – Number and % of beaches in each quality classification which have been subject to ‘Sample Discounting’, potential or actual (Official Published Record).

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Excellent
Totals: All beaches* / discountable beaches
in this category†.

Potential: total and %
of beaches in this category.

Actual : total and % of beaches in this category.

255 / 11







11 / 4%





11 / 4%

275 / 16







16 / 6%





11 / 4%

260 / 23







23 / 9%





15 / 6%

271 / 13







13 / 5%





10 / 4%

284 / 31







31 / 11%





19 / 7%

Good
Totals: All beaches* / discountable beaches
in this category†.

Potential: total and %
of beaches in this category.

Actual : total and % of beaches in this category.

104 / 37







37 / 36%





33 / 32%

94 / 32







32 / 34%





22 / 23%

103 / 33







33 / 32%





31 / 30%

103 / 35







35 / 34%





27 / 26%

89 / 36







36 / 40%





31 / 35%

Sufficient
Totals: All beaches* / discountable beaches
in this category†.

Potential: total and %
of beaches in this category.

Actual : total and % of beaches in this category.

26 / 14







14 / 54%





12 / 46%

19 / 11







11 / 58%





9 / 47%

23 / 9







9 / 39%





8 / 35%

21 / 11







11 / 52%





11 / 52%

20 / 13







13 / 65%





10 / 50%

Poor
Totals: All beaches* / discountable beaches
in this category†.

Potential: total and %
of beaches in this category.

Actual : total and % of beaches in this category.

8 / 4







4 / 50%





1 / 12%

5 / 2







2 / 40%





1 / 20%

6 / 3







3 / 50%





2 / 33%

8 / 4







4 / 50%





3 / 38%

7 / 5







5 / 71%





5 / 71%

Note * : Ref. Table A. Note † : Ref. Table B – arithmetically verified from total samples with no discounting

 

Table D/1
Marinet : Excellent Standard – Adjusted Beach Quality : Total number and % of beaches in the Excellent quality category after applying Marinet adjustment factor ‡, (see Footnote).

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total and % of beaches in this category identified by EA, (ref. Table A)

255 / 65 %

275 / 70%

260 / 66%

271 / 67%

284 / 71%

Total number of beaches in this category, minus those beaches with actually discounted samples: [- minus box], ref. Table C

244 (-11)

264 / (-11)

245 / (-15)

261 (-10)

265 / (-19)

Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment: [+ plus box], see Note ‡

Note: box is empty because there is no higher category to accept a transfer from

---

---

---

---

---

Total and % of beaches in this category after applying Marinet’s + (plus) and – (minus) box adjustments

244 / 63%



(+ 0 / - 11)

264 / 67%



(+ 0 / -11)

245 / 63%



(+ 0 / -15)

261 / 65%



(+ 0/ -10)

265 / 66%



(+ 0 / -19)

% of beaches in Excellent category rated by EA

and % after applying the Marinet adjustment factor

65 % / 62%

70% / 67%

66% / 63%

67% / 65%

71% / 66%

Note ‡ : Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment [ + plus box]. These are the total number of beaches in a higher quality category where one or more actual (as opposed to potential) short term pollution events (STPs) have been registered by the EA, so causing such samples to be actually discounted from the sampling record. Hence, this ‘actual’ total has been transferred into the lower category. The thesis is: when a STP event occurs at a particular beach and the sample has been actually discounted from the overall annual number of samples (as opposed to being potentially discountable), then really the quality category is misleading because if that discounted STP sample had been included then the beach would have been classified at a lower quality standard (e.g. beach quality moving from excellent to good, from good to sufficient, from sufficient to poor).

 

Table D/2
Marinet : Good Standard – Adjusted Beach Quality : Total number and % of beaches in the Good quality category after applying Marinet adjustment factor ‡, (see Footnote).

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total and % of beaches in this category identified by EA, (ref. Table A)

102 / 26%

94 / 24%

103 / 26%

103 / 26%

89 / 22%

Total number of beaches in this category, minus those beaches with actually discounted samples: [- minus box], ref. Table C

69 / (-33)

72 / (-22)

72 / (-31)

76 / (-27)

58 / (-31)

Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment: [+ plus box]. see Note ‡

11

11

15

10

19

Total and % of beaches in this category after applying Marinet’s + (plus) and – (minus) box adjustments.

80 / 20%




(+ 11 / - 33)

83 / 21%




(+ 11 / - 20)

87 / 22%




(+ 15 / - 29)

86 / 21%




(+ 10 / - 25)

77 / 19%




(+19 / -31)

% of beaches in Good category rated by EA

and % after applying the Marinet adjustment factor

26% / 20%

24% / 21%

26% / 22%

26% / 21%

22% / 19%

Note ‡ : Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment [ + plus box]. These are the total number of beaches in a higher quality category where one or more actual (as opposed to potential) short term pollution events (STPs) have been registered by the EA, so causing such samples to be actually discounted from the sampling record. Hence, this ‘actual’ total has been transferred into the lower category. The thesis is: when a STP event occurs at a particular beach and the sample has been actually discounted from the overall annual number of samples (as opposed to being potentially discountable), then really the quality category is misleading because if that discounted STP sample had been included then the beach would have been classified at a lower quality standard (e.g. beach quality moving from excellent to good, from good to sufficient, from sufficient to poor).

 

Table D/3
Marinet : Sufficient Standard – Adjusted Beach Quality : Total number and % of beaches in the Sufficient quality category after applying Marinet adjustment factor ‡, (see Footnote).

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total and % of beaches in this category identified by EA, (ref. Table A)

26 / 67%

19 / 5%

23 / 6%

21 / 5%

20 / 5%

Total number of beaches in this category, minus those beaches with actually discounted samples: [- minus box], ref. Table C

14 / (-12)

10 / (-9)

15 / (-8)

10 / (-11)

10 / (-10)

Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment: [+ plus box]. see Note ‡

33

22

31

27

31

Total and % of beaches in this category after applying Marinet’s + (plus) and – (minus) box adjustments.

47 / 12%



(+ 33 / - 12)

2 / 8%



(+ 22 / -9)

46 / 12%



(+ 31 / - 8)

37 / 9%



(+ 37 / -11)

41 / 10%



(+ 31 / -10)

% of beaches in Good category rated by EA
and % after applying the Marinet adjustment factor

7% / 12%

5% / 8%

6% / 12%

5% / 9%

5% / 10%

Note ‡ : Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment [ + plus box]. These are the total number of beaches in a higher quality category where one or more actual (as opposed to potential) short term pollution events (STPs) have been registered by the EA, so causing such samples to be actually discounted from the sampling record. Hence, this ‘actual’ total has been transferred into the lower category. The thesis is: when a STP event occurs at a particular beach and the sample has been actually discounted from the overall annual number of samples (as opposed to being potentially discountable), then really the quality category is misleading because if that discounted STP sample had been included then the beach would have been classified at a lower quality standard (e.g. beach quality moving from excellent to good, from good to sufficient, from sufficient to poor).

 

Table D/4
Marinet : Poor Standard – Adjusted Beach Quality : Total number and % of beaches in the Poor quality category after applying Marinet adjustment factor ‡, (see Footnote).

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Total and % of beaches in this category identified by EA, (ref. Table A)

8 / 2%

5 / 1%

6 / 2%

8 / 2%

7 / 2%

Total number of beaches in this category, minus those beaches with actually discounted samples: [- minus box], ref. Table C

7 / (-1)

4 / (-1)

4 / (-2)

5 / (-3)

2 / (-5)

Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment: [+ plus box], see Note ‡

12

9

8

11

10

Total and % of beaches in this category after applying Marinet’s + (plus) and – (minus) box adjustments.
Note: the minus figure is actually added back in because there is no lower category to transfer it to


19 / 5%




(+ 12 / - 1)









Total 20 / 5%

13 / 3%




(+ 9 / -1)









Total 14/ 4%

12 / 4%




(+ 8 / -2)









Total 14 /4%


16 / 5%




(+11 / -3)









Total 19 / 5%


12 / 4%




(+10 / -5)









Total 17 / 4%

% of beaches in Poor category rated by EA
and % after applying the Marinet adjustment factor

2% / 5%

1% / 4%

2% / 4%

2% / 5%

2% / 4%

Note ‡ : Total number of beaches transferred from higher category due to Marinet discounting adjustment [ + plus box]. These are the total number of beaches in a higher quality category where one or more actual (as opposed to potential) short term pollution events (STPs) have been registered by the EA, so causing such samples to be actually discounted from the sampling record. Hence, this ‘actual’ total has been transferred into the lower category. The thesis is: when a STP event occurs at a particular beach and the sample has been actually discounted from the overall annual number of samples (as opposed to being potentially discountable), then really the quality category is misleading because if that discounted STP sample had been included then the beach would have been classified at a lower quality standard (e.g. beach quality moving from excellent to good, from good to sufficient, from sufficient to poor).

 

Table E
Marinet: English Beaches – An illustration of the impact of ‘Sample Discounting’ on the Quality Performance record of bathing waters after applying the Marinet Adjustment Factor, ref. Table D1-4.

Quality Category

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

% of Beaches at Excellent Standard – 1st % figure is EA grading, 2nd % figure is Marinet grading.

Increase (+) or Decrease (-) in % of beaches after applying the Marinet
Adjustment Factor

65% / 62%











-3%

70% / 67%











-3%

66% / 63%











-3%

67% / 65%











-2%

71% / 66%











-5%

% of Beaches at Good Standard – 1st % figure is EA grading, 2nd % figure is Marinet grading.

Increase (+) or Decrease (-) in % of beaches after applying the Marinet
Adjustment Factor

26% / 20%











-6%

24% / 21%











-3%

26% / 22%











-4%

26% / 21%











-5%

22% / 19%











-3%

% of Beaches at Sufficient Standard – 1st % figure is EA grading, 2nd % figure is Marinet grading.

Increase (+) or Decrease (-) in % of beaches after applying the Marinet
Adjustment Factor

7% / 12%











+5%

5% / 8%











+3%

6% / 12%











+6%

5% / 9%











+4%

5% / 10%











+5%

% of Beaches at Poor Standard – 1st % figure is EA grading, 2nd % figure is Marinet grading.

Increase (+) or Decrease (-) in % of beaches after applying the Marinet
Adjustment Factor

2% / 5%











+3%

1% / 4%











+3%

2% / 4%











+2%

2% / 5%











+3%

2% / 4%











+2%

 

Table F
European Union : Proportion of bathing water sites with Excellent Water Quality in European countries, 2018*.

Country

% Excellent Quality

Country

% Excellent Quality

EU countries overall

85.1%

Czech Republic

81.7%

Cyprus

99.1%

France

78.8%

Malta

98.9%

Switzerland

75.0%

Austria

97.3%

Luxembourg

73.3%

Greece

97.0%

Netherlands

72.7%

Croatia

94.4%

Sweden

72.7%

Latvia

92.9%

Hungary

72.3%

Germany

92.7%

Ireland

71.0%

Portugal

91.1%

Estonia

66.7%

Italy

90.0%

United Kingdom

63.2%

Belgium

87.8%

Albania

62.0%

Denmark

87.4%

Slovakia

56.3%

Slovenia

87.2%

Romania

56.0%

Spain

87.0%

Bulgaria

52.6%

Finland

84.7%

Poland

28.0%

Lithuania

84.6%

*Note: These figures include inland as well as coastal bathing water sites, thus explaining why some countries with no coastal region are present. Also, the figure for the United Kingdom includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England. The term ‘EU countries’ also includes countries with ties to the EU, although not full members, e.g. Switzerland.

 
 
 

Appendix B:

UK Bathing Water Regulations 2013

 
Source : www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/1675/made
Extract: (Full Regulations viewable at the above site).

SCHEDULE 1
DEFINITIONS FROM THE WATER FRAMEWORK DIRECTIVE

“Coastal water” means surface water on the landward side of a line, every point of which is at a distance of one nautical mile on the seaward side from the nearest point of the baseline from which the breadth of territorial waters is measured, extending where appropriate up to the outer limit of transitional waters.

“Transitional waters” are bodies of surface water in the vicinity of river mouths which are partly saline in character as a result of their proximity to coastal waters but which are substantially influenced by freshwater flows.
Regulation 3

SCHEDULE 2
SURFACE WATERS IDENTIFIED IN ENGLAND

PART 1 Surface Waters in England









Regulation 7

SCHEDULE 3
BATHING WATER PROFILES

Contents
1.—(1) Every bathing water profile must—
(a)contain a description of the physical, geographical and hydrological characteristics of—
(i)the bathing water; and
(ii)any other surface water in the catchment area of the bathing water where the surface water could be a source of pollution for the bathing water;
(b)identify and assess the causes of pollution that might affect bathing water quality and pose a risk to bathers’ health;
(c)assess the potential for cyanobacterial proliferation;
(d)assess the potential for the proliferation of macro-algae or phytoplanktonphytoplankton Microscopic marine plants, usually algae. These microscopic plants are at the base of the food chain, and are the food of zooplankton (microscopic marine animals). Note: phytoplankton are microscopic plants, and zooplankton are microscopic animals.; and
(e)identify the location of the monitoring point.

(2) The information in sub-paragraph (1)(a) and (b) must be detailed on a map whenever practicable.

Review
2.—(1) Where a bathing water is classified as “poor”, “sufficient” or “good” under regulation 11, the appropriate agency must review, and if necessary update, the bathing water profile, taking into account the nature and severity of the pollution which affects the bathing water and at the following minimum frequency—
(a)if classified as “poor”, every two years;
(b)if classified as “sufficient”, every three years; and
(c)if classified as “good”, every four years.

(2) Where there are significant construction works or infrastructure changes in or around a bathing water, the appropriate agency must review the bathing water profile before the start of the next bathing season.
Regulation 8

SCHEDULE 4
MONITORING ETC
PART 1 INTESTINAL ENTEROCOCCI AND ESCHERICHIA COLI

Location of monitoring point
1. The appropriate agency must—
(a)at every bathing water, locate the monitoring point where most bathers are expected; and
(b)subject to paragraph 7, where possible, take samples 30 centimetres below the water’s surface and in water at least one metre deep.

Monitoring calendar
2.—(1) The appropriate agency must—
(a)establish a monitoring calendar for every bathing water before the start of every bathing season; and
(b)take samples at every bathing water no later than four days after the date specified in the monitoring calendar.

(2) In relation to any abnormal situation, the appropriate agency—
(a)may suspend the monitoring calendar for the duration of the situation; and
(b)as soon as possible after the end of the situation, must take sufficient additional samples to replace those missing due to the suspension and to ensure that it has the minimum number required for the bathing water for the bathing season.

Frequency of monitoring
3. The appropriate agency must—
(a)take and analyse the first sample for every bathing season shortly before the start of that season; and
(b)take and analyse samples at intervals not exceeding one month, from every bathing water throughout the bathing water season.

Sampling equipment
4.—(1) Subject to paragraph 7, the appropriate agency must only use sampling bottles which—
(a)have been—
(i)sterilised in an autoclave for at least 15 minutes at 121 degrees Celsius;
(ii)dry sterilised at no lower than 160 degrees Celsius and no higher than 170 degrees Celsius for at least one hour; or
(iii)irradiated by their manufacturer and not used previously;
(b)are of a size which allows sufficient water to be taken and analysed for the presence of intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli; and
(c)are made of transparent and colourless material.

(2) The appropriate agency must—
(a)use aseptic techniques to maintain the sterility of the sample bottles; and
(b)clearly identify every sample taken by marking in indelible ink the sample bottle and associated paperwork.

Storage and transport of samples before analysis
5.—(1) Subject to paragraph 7, the appropriate agency must—
(a)at all times, protect every sample taken from exposure to light, and in particular, direct sunlight; and
(b)conserve every sample at a temperature of around 4 degrees Celsius between sampling and laboratory analysis.

(2) In relation to any sample, if the interval between sampling and laboratory analysis is likely to exceed four hours, the appropriate agency must conserve the sample in a refrigerator.

(3) The appropriate agency must ensure that the time between sampling and laboratory analysis does not exceed 24 hours and must use its best endeavours to keep this time as short as possible.

Reference methods of analysis
6.—(1) Subject to paragraph 7, the appropriate agency must use the following reference methods of analysis—
(a)for intestinal enterococci, one of the following standards of the International Organization for Standardization—
(i)ISO 7899-1:1998 (water quality, detection and enumeration of intestinal enterococci, Part 1, miniaturized method, most probable number, for surface and waste water) as amended by Cor 1:2000, or
(ii)ISO 7899-2:2000 (water quality, detection and enumeration of intestinal enterococci, Part 2, membrane filtration method); and
(b)for Escherichia coli, one of the following standards of the International Organization for Standardization—
(i)ISO 9308-1:2000 (water quality, detection and enumeration of Escherichia coli and coliform bacteria, Part 1, membrane filtration method) as amended by Cor 1:2007, or
(ii)ISO 9308-3:1998 (water quality, detection and enumeration of Escherichia coli and coliform bacteria, Part 3, miniaturized method, most probable number, for the detection and enumeration of E. coli in surface and waste water) as amended by Cor 1:2000.

General provisions in relation to rules or reference methods of analysis
7. The appropriate agency—
(a)must have regard to the guidelines on the handling of samples for microbiological analyses given in Annex V to the Bathing Water Directive; and
(b)may use such rules or reference methods of analysis as it considers are substantively equivalent to those specified in this Schedule, where the appropriate agency has notified the appropriate Minister giving details of such rules and methods and their equivalence.

PART 2 CYNOBACTERIA

8. Where any bathing water profile indicates a potential for cyanobacterial proliferation, the appropriate agency must undertake appropriate monitoring at the bathing water at the frequency necessary to allow adequate management measures to be put in place in accordance with regulation 12.

PART 3 MACRO-ALGAE AND MARINE PHYTOPLANKTON

9. Where any bathing water profile indicates a tendency for proliferation of macro-algae or marine phytoplankton, the appropriate agency must undertake investigations at the bathing water to allow adequate management measures to be put in place in accordance with regulation 12.

PART 4 WASTE

10.  The appropriate agency must undertake visual inspections at every bathing water at the frequency necessary to allow adequate management measures to be put in place in accordance with regulation 12.
Regulation 11

SCHEDULE 5 CLASSIFICATION
Standards

1. The appropriate agency must use the following standards for classification—

Standards for coastal and transitional waters

Parameter

Excellent

Good

Sufficient

(1) Colony forming units per 100 millilitres (“cfu/100 ml”)

(2) Based upon a 95-percentile evaluation-see paragraph 2

(3) Based upon a 90-percentile evaluation-see paragraph 2

Intestinal enterococci<sup>(1)</sup>

100<sup>(2)</sup>

200<sup>(2)</sup>

185<sup>(3)</sup>

Escherichia coli<sup>(1)</sup>

250<sup>(2)</sup>

500<sup>(2)</sup>

500<sup>(3)</sup>

Methodology
2.—(1) In this Schedule, “percentile value” is based on a percentile evaluation of the log10 normal probability density function of microbiological data used for the assessment under regulation 10.

(2) The appropriate agency must derive a percentile value as follows—
(a)take the log10 value of all bacterial concentrations in the data sequence to be evaluated or, if a zero value is obtained, take the log10 value of the minimum detection limit of the analytical method used;
(b)calculate the arithmetic mean (“µ”) of the log10 values taken under paragraph (a);
(c)calculate the standard deviation (“σ”) of the log10 values taken under paragraph (a);
(d)derive the upper 90-percentile point of the data probability density function from the following equation: upper 90-percentile = antilog (µ + 1.282 σ); and
(e)derive the upper 95-percentile point of the data probability density function from the following equation: upper 95-percentile = antilog (µ + 1.65 σ).

Classification

3.—(1) At the end of every bathing season, the appropriate agency must classify a bathing water as “poor” if, in the set of bathing water quality data used, the percentile values for microbiological concentrations are higher than the “sufficient” standards set out in paragraph 1.

(2) At the end of every bathing season, the appropriate agency must classify a bathing water as “sufficient” if—
(a)in the set of bathing water quality data, the percentile values for microbiological concentrations are equal to or lower than the “sufficient” standards set out in paragraph 1; and
(b)the bathing water is not classifiable as “good” or “excellent”.

(3) At the end of every bathing season, the appropriate agency must classify a bathing water as “good” if—
(a)in the set of bathing water quality data, the percentile values for microbiological concentrations are equal to or lower than the “good” standards set out in paragraph 1; and
(b)the bathing water is not classifiable as “excellent”.

(4) At the end of every bathing season, the appropriate agency must classify a bathing water as “excellent” if, in the set of bathing water quality data used, the percentile values for microbiological concentrations are equal to or lower than the “excellent” standards set out in paragraph 1.

EXPLANATORY NOTE
(This note is not part of the Regulations)
These Regulations revoke and replace the Bathing Water Regulations 2008 and implement, in England and Wales only, Directive 2006/7/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the management of bathing water quality and repealing Directive 76/160/EEC (OJ L64, 4.3.2006, p.37) (“the Bathing Water Directive”). The Bathing Water Directive is available from the Europa website:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32006L0007:EN:NOT.
 
 
 

Appendix C:

 
Marinet: Analysis of Environment Agency Bathing Water Monitoring – Monthly Data, 2019 : Blackpool Central, Lancashire: EA Daily Pollution Forecast alongside EA Sample Discounting Record, 2019.
 
In addition to legally discounting samples from the official performance record, the Environment Agency also rates the risk of faecal pollution (animal and human) on a daily basis. We provide here the record of this daily rating during 2019 at Blackpool Central, Lancashire, a popular beach and bathing water.

As can be seen from the monthly data, the risk of contamination from faecal pollution can easily occur on over 50% of the days in each month.

However on the overwhelming majority of these days when the EA is forecasting a risk from faecal pollution no sampling of the actual water quality is taking place. This means that the health risk to bathers is remaining unmeasured. Indeed, instead of targeting days when the faecal pollution risk is high the EA’s sampling programme is frequently occurring on days when there is no official risk at all of faecal pollution. Hence the “Good Standard” for Blackpool Central’ bathing waters is likely to be greatly over-rated because the days when the pollution risk is at its highest are simply being missed by the sampling regime. The same weakness in the EA’s sampling methodology applies to all other English beaches.




 
 
 

Appendix D
Pathogens occurring in Sewage contaminated bathing waters.

 
Source: Swimming in Sewage, author Mark Dorfman MSPH, published by Natural Resources Defence Council (www.nrdc.org) and Environmental Integrity Project (www.environmentalintegrity.org), 2004.

Pathogenic Agent

Acute, Chronic or Ultimate Effects †

Origin of Waste ♦

Bacteria:

Campylobacter jejuni

Gastroenteritis/death from Guillain-Barre syndrome

Human/animal faeces

E coli (pathogenic or enterovirulent strains)

Gastroenteritis/E coli 0157:H7, adults: death from thrombocytopenia; children: death from kidney failure

Domestic sewage

Leptospira

Leptospirosis

Animal urine

Salmonella typhi

Typhoid fever/reactive arthritis from certain strains

Domestic sewage

Other salmonella species

Various enteric fevers (often called paratyphoid), gastroenteritis, septicaemia (generalised infections in which organisms multiply in the bloodstream)

Domestic sewage, animal wastes, food, compost

Shigella dysenteriae and other species

Bacillary dysentery

Human faeces, domestic sewage

Vibrio cholera

Cholera/death

Domestic sewage, shellfish, saltwater

Yersinia spp.

Acute gastroenteritis (including diarrhoea, abdominal pain)/reactive arthritis

Water, milk, mammalian alimentary canal

Viruses:

Adenovirus

Respiratory and gastrointestinal infections

Domestic sewage

Astrovirus

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Calicivurus

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Coxsackievirus (some strains)

Various, including severe respiratory diseases, fevers, rashes, paralysis, aseptic meningitis, myocarditis

Domestic sewage

Echovirus

TeVarious, similar to Coxsackievirus (evidence is not definitive, except in experimental animals)xt

Domestic sewage

Hepatitis A

Infectious hepatitis (liver malfunction); also may affect kidneys and spleen

Domestic sewage

Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Poliovirus

Poliomyelitis

Domestic sewage

Reovirus

Respiratory infections, gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Rotavirus

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Protozoa:

Balantidium coli

Dysentery, intestinal ulcers

Human/animal faeces (especially swine)

Cryptosporidium parvum

Gastroenteritis/death in immuno-compromised host

Human/animal faeces

Cyclospora cayetanensis

Gastroenteritis

Human faeces

Dientamoeba fragilis

Mild diarrhoea

Human faeces

Entamoeba histolytica

Amoebic dysentery, infections of other organs

Human/animal faeces, domestic sewage

Giardia lambia

Giardiasis, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps/failure to thrive, severe hypothyroidism, lactose intolerance, chronic joint pain

Human faeces

Isospora belli and Isospora hominus

Intestinal parasites, gastrointestinal infection

Toxoplasma gondii

Newborn syndrome, hearing and visual loss, mental retardation, diarrhoea/dementia and/or seizures

Cat faeces

Helminths (worms):
Digenetic trematodes (flukes):

Schistosoma haematobium

Schistsomiasis

Human faeces

Schistosoma japanicum

Schistsomiasis

Human faeces

Schistosoma mansoni

Schistsomiasis

Human faeces

Echinostoma spp.

Diarrhoea

Animal faeces

Fexciola hepatica

Liver necrosis and cirrhosis

Animal faeces

Paragonimus westermani

Paragonimiasis

Animal faeces and crustaceans

Clonorchis sinensis

Bile duct erosion

Human faeces, raw fish

Heterophyes heterophyes

Diarrhoea and myocarditis

Human faeces, raw fish

Cestodes (tapeworms):


Diphyllobothrium latum

Diarrhoea and anaemia

Human faeces, raw fish

Taeniarhynchus saginatus

Dizziness, nausea, pain, inappetence

Human faeces, raw fish

Taenia solium

Dizziness, nausea, pain, inappetence, cysticercosis

Human faeces, raw fish

Echinococcus granulosus

Hydatidosis

Dog, other animal faeces

Hymenolepsis nana

Dizziness, nausea, pain and inappetence

Human faeces

Nematodes (roundworms):

Trichuris trichiura

Asymptomatic to chronic haemorrhage

Human faeces

Strongyloides stercoralis

Strongyloidiasis

Human faeces

Necator americanus

Iron-deficiency anaemia and protein deficiency

Human faeces

Ancylostoma duodenale

Iron-deficiency anaemia and protein deficiency

Human faeces

Ascaris lumbricoides

Ascariasis

Human, pig and other animal faeces

† Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol 3, no. 4, Oct-Dec. 1997, as presented in J. B. Rose, et al, Microbial Pollutants in Our Nation’s Waters :Environmental and Public Health Issues, American Society for Microbiology, Washington D. C. , 1999, p.8.

♦ Source: Katonak, R, and J. B. Rose, Public Health Risks Associated with Wastewater Blending, Michigan State University, East Lansing, November 17, 2003, pp30,39.

Farming and additional pathogens:
The manure and slurry from the farming of livestock ‐ both in intensive, enclosed systems and in open fields ‐ is the source of a heavy concentration and wide range of pathogens, see Survey of animal-borne pathogens in the farm environment of 13 dairy operations, J.D. Toth et al, Journal of Dairy Science, 2013. If ingested, many are highly toxic to humans. Therefore, particularly during wet weather, run-off from farms and fields into local watercourses and rivers, and from there into estuarine waters which may be close to some sea bathing areas, can become a very significant and dangerous source of pollution. These matters have been researched by the UK government (DEFRA), see Science and Research Projects, Defra, 2004. Routes by which pathogens associated with livestock slurries and manures may be transferred to the wider environment. However this research needs revisiting and updating as new pathogens are continually evolving, as are the vectors by which exposure occurs. Consequently sea bathing waters exposed to estuarine waters and their bathers are particularly at risk.
 
 
 

Appendix E

 
B. Morgan (Marinet): Illustration (top) of Dissipation of Sewage pumped to Sea after different time intervals. Illustration concept based on: De Marchis, 2012, Modelling of E Coli distribution from CSOs in coastal area, Universities of Palermo and Kore, Addendum in Water Science and Technology, 2013; and B. Morgan (Marinet): Illustration (bottom) of initial ‘mushroom-like’ dissipation of less dense water from sewage outfall pipeline upon discharge into denser sea water. Illustration concept based on: De Marchis, 2012, op. cit.

 
 

B. Morgan (Marinet): Sketch of Dissipation of effluent from sewage outfall, after illustration in Submarine sewer outfall – A design manual, B. Quentin and M. De Rouville, Marine Pollution Bulletin, April 1986 Vol 17, Issue 4.

B. Morgan (Marinet), Sewage Dissipation in Sea Water. Chart recording the volume of fresh water sewage discharges against the rate of dissipation in sea water. The volume of the discharge relates to the number of people served by the sewage treatment works, and the rate of dissipation is measured in minutes from the point of entry to full dissipation. The data is drawn from Environment Agency bathing water quality profiles, 2018 and 2019, and comes from 45 bathing water sites on the east coast of England centred largely on Tyneside and Norfolk.


 
 
 

Appendix F:

 
Extract: Mark. D. Wyer et al. Within-day variability in microbial concentrations at a UK designated bathing water: Implications for regulatory monitoring and the application of predictive modelling based on historical compliance data, Published by Water Research X, Volume 1, 1st December 2018, 100006.

Table 3. Water quality classifications based on European Bathing Water Directive (BWD) criteria for Escherichia coli and confirmed intestinal enterococci (cIE) results from Swansea Bay designated sampling point during summer 2011 for two time period groupings and hourly time of day (EU, 2006: Annex I and II, Pages 46 to 48).

A. Two period classification (60 days):

Time of day (GMT)

BWD E. coli classification

BWD cIE classification

Number of observations

07:00–11:00

Sufficient

Poor

540

11:30–16:00

Good

Sufficient

600

B. Three period classification (24 days):

Time of day (GMT)

BWD E. coli classification

BWD cIE classification

Number of observations

07:00–11:00

Sufficient

Poor

216

11:30–15:00

Good

Sufficient

192

15:30–19:00

Sufficient

Poor

191

C. Hourly classification (07:00–16:00–60 days, 16:30–19:00–24 days)

Time of day (GMT)

BWD E. coli classification

BWD cIE classification

Number of observations

07:00

Sufficient

Poor

60

08:00

Sufficient

Poor

60

09:00

Sufficient

Poor

60

10:00

Good

Poor

60

11:00

Good

Sufficient

60

12:00

Good

Sufficient

60

13:00

Good

Sufficient
60

14:00

Good

Good

60

15:00

Good

Sufficient

60

16:00
Sufficient
Sufficient

60

17:00

Sufficient

Poor

24

18:00

Sufficient

Poor

24

19:00

Sufficient

Poor

24

Excellent: 95%ile E. coli ≤ 250 cfu/100 ml, 95%ile cIE ≤100 cfu/100 ml.
Good: 95%ile E. coli ≤ 500 cfu/100 ml, 95%ile cIE ≤200 cfu/100 ml.
Sufficient: 90%ile E. coli ≤ 500 cfu/100 ml, 90%ile IE ≤ 185 cfu/100 ml.
Poor: 90%ile E. coli > 500 cfu/100 ml, 90%ile cIE >185 cfu/100 ml.
Where: cfu = colony forming units and the limit values are geometric, calculated using the mean (X¯) and standard deviation (SD) of log10 concentrations:
90%ile=10(X¯+1.282×SD)
95%ile=10(X¯+1.65×SD)

 
 
Extract: Mark. D. Wyer et al. Within-day variability in microbial concentrations at a UK designated bathing water: Implications for regulatory monitoring and the application of predictive modelling based on historical compliance data, Published by Water Research X, Volume 1, 1st December 2018, 100006.

Graphical abstract

 
 
 
B. Morgan (Marinet): Sampling times at selected East Coast Bathing Waters, 2019, by Environment Agency.

Note: This chart records the timing of samples (one sample per bathing water) taken at bathing waters by an EA sampling team in 2019 on the East coast. The sampling team visits several bathing waters on each trip, and the ‘journey time’ refers to the length of the trip and the arrow shows whether the journey went north or south. It would appear that little account is taken of tides and all samples have been taken in the period between the peak morning and evening discharges and after the morning plume dispersal.
 
 

Sand Sea and Sewage footnotes

1. Appendix A, Table A – the precise number of bathing waters varies from year to year. It was 400 in 2019. A bathing area is anywhere where there are a large number of bathers, with the current list deriving from survey work at the time of the old Directive, 76/160/EEC.
2. Appendix A, Table A.
3. These figures include inland as well as coastal bathing water sites, thus explaining why some European countries with no coastal region are present. Also, the figure for the United Kingdom includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.
4. Appendix A, Table F.
5. Appendix D, Pathogens in sewage contaminated bathing waters.
6. Appendix B : This provides an Extract from the UK Bathing Water Regulations (England and Wales) 2013 which implement the EU Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC. Appendix B provides a list of the Bathing Sites in England and Wales along with details of the Quality Standards for the Directive (UK Regulations) and how the monitoring regime must be legally implemented (by the Environment Agency) and be recorded for public information purposes.
7. Appendix A, Tables D1/2/3/4 and Table E.
8. Appendix E : B. Morgan, Sewage Dissipation in Sea Water.  Sketches of the rate and manner of dissipation including plume formation, along with Chart of the actual rate of dissipation at a number of East Coast bathing waters, 2018 and 2019.
9. EA website on Monitoring of Bathing Water Quality : http://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles
10. Appendix C : Marinet: Analysis of Environment Agency Bathing Water Monitoring – Monthly Data, 2019 : Blackpool Central, Lancashire: EA Daily Pollution Risk Forecast alongside EA Sample Discounting Record, 2019.
11. Appendix A : Table A. Environment Agency: English Beaches – Bathing Water Quality Record (Official Published Record).
12. Appendix A : Table B. Environment Agency: English Beaches – Number and % of beaches in each quality classification which have NOT been subject to ‘Sample Discounting’, potential or actual (Official Published Record).
13. Appendix A: Table B and Table C.
14. Appendix A, Table C : Number and % of beaches in each quality classification which have been subject to ‘Sample Discounting’, potential or actual (Official Published Record; and, Table E : After applying the ‘Marinet Adjustment Factor’ related to ‘discounting’ 35% of English bathing waters (2015 to 2019) are outside the Excellent Quality classification and therefore experience sewage pollution as defined under Directive 2006/7/EC.
15. Appendix D, Pathogens in Sewage contaminated bathing waters.
16. EA website on Monitoring of Bathing Water Quality : http://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles
17. Appendix D, Pathogens in Sewage contaminated bathing waters.
18. Appendix B : This provides an Extract from the UK Bathing Water Regulations (England and Wales) 2013 which implement the EU Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC.
19. WHO recommendations on scientific, analytical and epidemiological developments relevant to the parameters for bathing water quality in the Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) https://circabc.europa.eu/d/d/workspace/SpacesStore/9e89152c-7cfe-4391-9bcf-c173519e8181/WHO%20Recommendations%20on%20EC%20BWD.pdf>https://circabc.europa.eu/d/d/workspace/SpacesStore/9e89152c-7cfe-4391-9bcf-c173519e8181/WHO%20Recommendations%20on%20EC%20BWD.pdf
20. Joint Presentation to CIWEM and Engineers Ireland, 20 February 2006, Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC www.engineersireland.ie/EngineersIreland/media/SiteMedia/groups/societies/water-enviro/Bathing-Water-Directive-CIWEM-Paper.pdf?ext=.pdf
21. Appendix B: Extract from the UK Bathing Water Regulations (England and Wales) 2013 which implement the EU Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC. Full text of Directive : https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32006L0007&from=GA
22. EA website on Monitoring of Bathing Water Quality : http://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles/
23. Appendix A: Table B. Environment Agency: English Beaches – Number and % of beaches in each quality classification which have NOT been subject to ‘Sample Discounting’, potential or actual (Official Published Record); and, Appendix A: Table C. Environment Agency: English Beaches – Number and % of beaches in each quality classification which have been subject to ‘Sample Discounting’, potential or actual (Official Published Record).
24. A series of 8 short videos (2 minutes each) published by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership explains the sewage treatment process very simply, see https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLql2Zihn7Zma6CKMOJXyuUbZx-TPtckZC (Note: effluent disinfection can include high level ultraviolet treatment as an alternative to chlorination with the electricity for this uv treatment generated from the methane created in an earlier anaerobic stage of the treatment process, see the following for a fuller explanation of the whole treatment process: https://www.rcac.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Non-operators-GuideWASTEWATERSystems.pdf
25. Directive 2006/7/EC, Article 3, section 6 and its Annex II, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32006L0007&from=GA
26. Appendix A, Table C : Environment Agency: English Beaches – Number and % of beaches in each quality classification which have been subject to ‘Sample Discounting’, potential or actual (Official Published Record).
27. Appendix A, Table C, D 1 to 4, and Table E : Marinet: English Beaches – An Illustration of the impact of ‘Sample Discounting’ on the Quality Performance record of bathing waters after applying the Marinet Adjustment Factor, ref. Table D1-4.
28. Appendix A, Table A.
29. Appendix E: B. Morgan (Marinet): Illustrations of Dissipation of Sewage pumped to Sea after different time intervals. Illustration concept based on: De Marchis, 2012; and also sketch, after B. Quentin and M. De Rouville, 1986; and additional chart recording the volume of fresh water sewage discharges against the rate of dissipation in sea water, data from EA monitoring on East coast, 2018/19.
30. Appendix F: Extract from Mark. D. Wyer et al. Within-day variability in microbial concentrations at a UK designated bathing water: Implications for regulatory monitoring and the application of predictive modelling based on historical compliance data, published by Water Research X, Volume 1, 1st December 2018, 100006. Also, B. Morgan: Sampling times at selected East Coast Bathing Waters, 2019, based on Environment Agency data.
31. EA website on Monitoring of Bathing Water Quality : http://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles
32. Appendix F: B. Morgan: Sampling times by Environment Agency at selected East Coast Bathing Waters, 2019.
33. 1. Halliday and Gast, 2011, Bacteria in sands, an emerging challenge, Environ Science Technol, 45 (2); 2. Sabino et al, 2014, Routine Screening of harmful microorganisms in beach sands; implications to human health, Science of the Total Environment, 272; 3. Solo-Gabrielle et al, 2016, Beach sand and the potential for infectious disease transmission, observations and recommendations; a multi-disciplinary combined work. JMBA, 2016, 96 (1), pages 101-120.
34. Abundance and Distribution of Enteric Bacteria and Viruses in Coastal and Estuarine Sediments – A Review by F. Hassard et al, published by Frontiers in Microbiology, 2016.
35. Waste Water Treatment in the UK 2012 : Implementation of the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 91/271/EEC, published by DEFRA, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69592/pb13811-waste-water-2012.pdf . In particular, see Table 11(b).
36. Weatherspark.com https://weatherspark.com/y/45062/Average-Weather-in-London-United-Kingdom-Year-Round
37. Appendix A, Table C.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Part II

EU Bathing Water Directive, 76/160/EEC, 1979 to 2014

 
 

 
 

Sand, Sea and Sewage

by

Patrick Gowen

First published by Marinet, January 2018
Second edition, revised, May 2020

Sand, Sea and Sewage

The history of our campaign to address the health threats imposed by marine sewage pollution, and the nature of the response by government in the light of the European Bathing Water Directive, 76/160/EEC.
Author: Patrick Gowen

Pat Gowen

Patrick Gowen

Preface
The author of this article, Patrick (Pat) Gowen died in August 2017 (1932-2017). He was a founder member of Marinet and its first Chairman at the time of Marinet’s establishment in 2002. In 2017, when his health was declining, he asked me to act as an editor for him and to complete this article based on the written text he had finalised for the first half and his notes for the second half.

This I have now done, and this article is the outcome. It is an extraordinary record. It is extraordinary not just because it records clearly the deviousness of government in seeking to evade its responsibilities, in this instance with respect to the safety of sea bathing waters and the scourge of sewage pollution, but also because it is a testament to an exceptional person who, with colleagues, selflessly gave himself to years of environmental campaigning — effectively his lifetime — and to serving the public good and doing so entirely voluntarily and for no personal benefit.

Professionally, Pat Gowen was a man of many abilities. Primarily a scientist, Pat joined the Biophysics Department at the University of East Anglia shortly after it was established, and it was here that he became a Chief Technician and earned his living until he retired. Pat was also a person of strong conviction, and he said “I decided that as a scientist, I could do more as an activist. At some point you have to stand up and be counted and speak for the environment.” The account he relates in this article is exemplary evidence of this belief.

His abilities and activities were not restricted to environmental work alone. He was also a highly qualified and accomplished amateur radio operator, and he became a Director of AMSAT (the Radio-amateur Satellite Corporation) based in Washington DC, USA. This involved him in the design, building and launching of free access satellites for the radio amateur for their own use in communications, education and research, with these satellites managing to secure a “free-ride” on NASA’s own weather and earth resources satellites.

In 1978 the USSR version of AMSAT — known as DOSAAF — put a pair of amateur satellites into orbit with a COSMOS launch, and it was for his original work through and with these spacecraft which led to the award to Pat of a COSMOS Diploma and Gold Medal.

However it was not until around 2000 that the paths of Pat and myself crossed, the issue of sewage pollution of our bathing beaches being the meeting point. In subsequent years I came to know Pat as an environmental campaigner of immense conviction and ability. Not only did he give unstintingly of his time and pioneering campaigning mind to sewage pollution, but also to another scourge that affects the coast of East Anglia — commercial offshore aggregate dredging for sand and gravel from the seabed, and the profound consequences this has and still does have on the quality of beaches, coastal sea defences, sea fisheries and marine life in general.

Almost single-handedly Pat developed the campaign and expertise that first challenged these UK-wide offshore aggregate dredging practices — now supplying around 20% of sand and gravel throughout the UK, and more than 80% in London. Whilst chairman of Marinet he established the marine aggregate campaign as one of the principal components of Marinet’s work and this still remains the case today.

Pat and I were founder members of Marinet — he as chairman and I as its co-ordinator, and throughout the years that I worked alongside him I could be certain that he would always remind me of the basic principles involved in our campaigns, and I could be certain that he would chide me and others if we had overlooked something fundamental. He set standards for a focus on truth and accuracy that were unwavering and he had little time for those who would dissemble from such a commitment.

I believe you will find this clearly evident in the facts related here in his article.

It is neither exaggeration nor unwarranted praise to say that knowing Pat and working with him has been one of the privileges of my lifetime. His like are not easily found, nor replaced, and the mark he has left through his life and its endeavours are a benchmark by which any young person seeking to defend the environment today could well measure themselves. There is no doubt, we are in urgent need of more of his calibre.

I would not want to seem to be putting Pat on a pedestal. He was too modest a man to permit anyone to do so and he had a sharp wit and eye for debunking all those would seek to govern and administer in this way.

In 2008 he sent me an item tilted “one NOT for the website”. I reproduce it here:

Science Reveals Heaviest Element Ever Discovered

Research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction, which normally takes less than a second, to take from four days to four years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-6 years. It does not decay, but undergoes a reorganisation in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and 20 deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes, not to mention multiple oxymorons.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. That hypothetical quantity might normally be called “critical mass” but, in this unique case it is known as “critical mess”.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium (Am), another just-discovered element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

 

Whether Pat wrote this himself, I do not know. However I feel it almost appropriate to attribute it to him. He had the measure of his opponents and, if he had more resources, he would certainly have been classed as “dangerous”.

Pat was, in my experience, very much a democrat. He was a strong believer in the rights of the ordinary person and the protection of those rights, especially when challenged by government or the bureaucratic system. However he was sharp enough to know how to use government and larger organisations to advantage, as the narrative relating to the Bathing Water Directive will demonstrate, whist being equally conscious of how government and organisations can and do suppress progress and good sense.

Thus, after a period of intense frustration and growing disillusionment which led to Marinet to decide in 2015 to part ways with its parent organisation, Friends of the Earth, he was a strong supporter, indeed advocate, of that decision.

He believed in progress, always challenging those who refuse to accept the necessity of progress; and, although he was not able to take an active part in the independent Marinet in his final years, he believed in the vision and sense of commitment to secure real change for our seas and ocean which Marinet’s independence has heralded.

He was a person of very great commitment and vision. This is his legacy. It embraces us now and, I trust, we will in the future continue to embrace him equally strongly and so sustain his legacy to us.

Stephen Eades
Director, Marinet Limited

 

Marinet owes Pat its future and present direction. He was a Chairman with integrity and vision and he led by example which Stephen and I have always tried to emulate. His enthusiasm was infectious, he always hoped the environmental lobby would pull together but never lived to see it. We will miss his guidance as our first Life President.
David Levy, Current Chairman

Photo: Marinet Steering Group, 2003: Seated (anti-clockwise) Pat Gowen (Chair, Norfolk FOE), Stephen Eades (Co-ordinator, North Wiltshire FOE), Nicole Barton (national FOE), Clare Wilton (national FOE), Gina Carrinegton (Secretary, Manhood Penisula FOE), Alan Pegg, (Treasurer, Brighton FOE).

 
 

Sand, Sea and Sewage — by Patrick Gowen
The long-view of the history of sewage pollution

 
Mankind has known for over three thousand years that contact with the faecal output of others is the greatest single danger known to health. The Chinese dynasties knew this, the Ancient Egyptians knew it, as did the oldest Minoan, Greek, Aztec and Roman civilizations. In those times they didn’t know about bacteria and viruses, but from bitter experience they understood that to have faecal matter in the water that they drank, bathed in and washed their clothes in was courting disaster.

History tells of whole communities having been wiped out in the past by the diseases visited upon people through contact with sewage polluted water with the result that we are now well aware of the need for hygienic disposal. Today every mother carefully teaches her offspring to wash their hands after visiting the toilet. So if we know, parents know and every little child knows this, why is it that consecutive British governments over the past fifty years do not?

The earlier authorities were very aware of the essential need to stop the epidemics of typhoid, cholera and poliomyelitis that raged in the bigger towns and cities, but the practice of discharging sewage to rivers in towns and cities was widespread and the sea in coastal regions served as the disposal route.

Where the authorities did undertake treatment the sludge was removed by primary treatment (settlement, which separates solids from liquids), and was then digested by bacteria (secondary treatment) or otherwise sterilised, and used as ‘basic sludge’ on the fields as a fertilizer and soil conditioner and for its moisture holding properties. The sludge-free liquid was given secondary treatment by trickling it over stone banks exposed to light and air, so destroying most of the pathogens.

However this destruction of the pathogens was not so with the sewage going to the sea because it was mistakenly assumed that the combination of dilution, salinity, dispersion and oxygen present in the sea water, along with daytime exposure to sun light (ultra-violet), would kill off the dangerous organisms.

In the highly saline, warmer and well sunlit seas such as the Mediterranean, this was partially true. The ‘T-90 rule’ comes into play (T= time). This rule dictates that for every four hours of immersion in sea water the coliforms (gut-related bacteria) decay by 90 per cent. Thus after four hours we would see 10% of the original coliforms remaining, after eight hours we would see just 1%, after twelve hours 0.1% and so on. But whilst this T-90 decay is operative in some seas, it is not the case in the cold, murky, poorly lit waters of the UK where the decay period (T-90) can be far longer, well over a day in some cases. In the case of viruses, the T-90 principle can cover several days because viruses die at a far slower rate in saline conditions.

Tests for the T-90 coliform decay rate under different holding conditions were conducted by the author (Patrick Gowen) as evidence for the House of Commons Environment Committee Fourth Report, Session 1989-90, ‘Pollution of Beaches’, Volume III, Appendices, pages 477-482, ISBN 0 10 297890 5. These tests showed that the actual decay rate could vary by a factor of 10 depending upon the temperature, presence of sludge, the dissolved oxygen content and light penetration.

The same factors come into play in the ‘holding time and conditions’ of samples of sea water before placing to culture in the laboratory. If delayed before culture, the coliforms remaining in the sample can die and consequently be down to less than 10% of the level that were present at the point and time of sampling, thus giving a very misleading record of the real content originally present in the sea.

Sewage has long been disposed of to sea at most seaside resorts. When the population consisted of only a tiny community of fishermen and their families the faecal input to the sea was small. It could even be said that such disposal was beneficial to the environment, as small amounts aided the eco-system’s floral habitat by the provision of the phosphate and nitrate to be found in the effluent.

However since the early 1900’s the popularity of both coastal residence and marine recreation have increased many hundred fold, and coastal populations have grown enormously. As these seaside populations increased so did the amount of sewage being discharged to sea and grave health problems began to arise.

Nowadays the population of any coastal resort in the peak summer holiday season can increase by over eight times the normal resident levels, so the amount of excrement in the sea rises proportionally. On the same basis and at the same time, the number of people bathing in the polluted sea and using the beaches rises similarly, so producing a potentially dangerous situation.

There are many highly contagious and dangerous bacteria and viruses in untreated sewage that can give rise to a large number of what are known as faecal-oral infections. Pathogens in faecal matter excreted by any resident or holidaymaker which are not treated at a sewage works and are discharged to sea via an outfall (pipeline) can be picked up by anyone swallowing seawater. Eye, ear and skin infections can result from simple contact. Sunburn sores and beach abrasions can become similarly infected. Some faecal-oral infections from ingested pathogens such as a few of the salmonella bacteria cerotypes (e.g. salmonella hadar) require a large number of organisms to cause infection and so may cause only a few days of mild diarrhoea and vomiting – yet enough to spoil an otherwise pleasant holiday. Whereas others can cause a lasting serious infirmity, (e.g. typhoid — salmonella typhi). They need only one or two organisms to infect and can even kill, especially the very young and the old.

A listing of those pathogens that we now know may be found to be present in water containing untreated sewage, and the diseases that they can cause, is listed below and is also available with additional information on the subject on Marinet’s website, see www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/pathogens-identified-in-sewage-contaminated-bathing-water

Pathogens occurring in Sewage contaminated bathing waters.
Source: Swimming in Sewage, author Mark Dorfman MSPH, published by Natural Resources Defence Council (www.nrdc.org) and Environmental Integrity Project (www.environmentalintegrity.org) , 2004.

Pathogenic Agent

Acute, Chronic or Ultimate Effects †

Origin of Waste ♦

Bacteria:

Campylobacter jejuni

Gastroenteritis/death from Guillain-Barre syndrome

Human/animal faeces

E coli (pathogenic or enterovirulent strains)

Gastroenteritis/E coli 0157:H7, adults: death from thrombocytopenia; children: death from kidney failure

Domestic sewage

Leptospira

Leptospirosis

Animal urine

Salmonella typhi

Typhoid fever/reactive arthritis from certain strains

Domestic sewage

Other salmonella species

Various enteric fevers (often called paratyphoid), gastroenteritis, septicaemia (generalised infections in which organisms multiply in the bloodstream)

Domestic sewage, animal wastes, food, compost

Shigella dysenteriae and other species

Bacillary dysentery

Human faeces, domestic sewage

Vibrio cholera

Cholera/death

Domestic sewage, shellfish, saltwater

Yersinia spp.

Acute gastroenteritis (including diarrhoea, abdominal pain)/reactive arthritis

Water, milk, mammalian alimentary canal

Viruses:

Adenovirus

Respiratory and gastrointestinal infections

Domestic sewage

Astrovirus

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Calicivurus

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Coxsackievirus (some strains)

Various, including severe respiratory diseases, fevers, rashes, paralysis, aseptic meningitis, myocarditis

Domestic sewage

Echovirus

TeVarious, similar to Coxsackievirus (evidence is not definitive, except in experimental animals)xt

Domestic sewage

Hepatitis A

Infectious hepatitis (liver malfunction); also may affect kidneys and spleen

Domestic sewage

Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Poliovirus

Poliomyelitis

Domestic sewage

Reovirus

Respiratory infections, gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Rotavirus

Gastroenteritis

Domestic sewage

Protozoa:

Balantidium coli

Dysentery, intestinal ulcers

Human/animal faeces (especially swine)

Cryptosporidium parvum

Gastroenteritis/death in immuno-compromised host

Human/animal faeces

Cyclospora cayetanensis

Gastroenteritis

Human faeces

Dientamoeba fragilis

Mild diarrhoea

Human faeces

Entamoeba histolytica

Amoebic dysentery, infections of other organs

Human/animal faeces, domestic sewage

Giardia lambia

Giardiasis, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps/failure to thrive, severe hypothyroidism, lactose intolerance, chronic joint pain

Human faeces

Isospora belli and Isospora hominus

Intestinal parasites, gastrointestinal infection

Toxoplasma gondii

Newborn syndrome, hearing and visual loss, mental retardation, diarrhoea/dementia and/or seizures

Cat faeces

TextPathogenic Agent

Acute, Chronic or Ultimate Effects †

Origin of Waste ♦

Helminths (worms):
Digenetic trematodes (flukes):

Schistosoma haematobium

Schistsomiasis

Human faeces

Schistosoma japanicum

Schistsomiasis

Human faeces

Schistosoma mansoni

Schistsomiasis

Human faeces

Echinostoma spp.

Diarrhoea

Animal faeces

Fexciola hepatica

Liver necrosis and cirrhosis

Animal faeces

Paragonimus westermani

Paragonimiasis

Animal faeces and crustaceans

Clonorchis sinensis

Bile duct erosion

Human faeces, raw fish

Heterophyes heterophyes

Diarrhoea and myocarditis

Human faeces, raw fish

Cestodes (tapeworms):

Diphyllobothrium latum

Diarrhoea and anaemia

Human faeces, raw fish

Taeniarhynchus saginatus

Dizziness, nausea, pain, inappetence

Human faeces, raw fish

Taenia solium

Dizziness, nausea, pain, inappetence, cysticercosis

Human faeces, raw fish

Echinococcus granulosus

Hydatidosis

Dog, other animal faeces

Hymenolepsis nana

Dizziness, nausea, pain and inappetence

Human faeces

Nematodes (roundworms):

Trichuris trichiura

Asymptomatic to chronic haemorrhage

Human faeces

Strongyloides stercoralis

Strongyloidiasis

Human faeces

Necator americanus

Iron-deficiency anaemia and protein deficiency

Human faeces

Ancylostoma duodenale

Iron-deficiency anaemia and protein deficiency

Human faeces

Ascaris lumbricoides

Ascariasis

Human, pig and other animal faeces

† Source: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol 3, no. 4, Oct-Dec. 1997, as presented in J. B. Rose, et al, Microbial Pollutants in Our Nation’s Waters :Environmental and Public Health Issues, American Society for Microbiology, Washington D. C. , 1999, p.8.
♦ Source: Katonak, R, and J. B. Rose, Public Health Risks Associated with Wastewater Blending, Michigan State University, East Lansing, November 17, 2003, pp30,39.

 
A more recent history of sewage pollution.

In the late 1940’s, a polio and typhoid outbreak (poliomyelitis : inflammation of the spinal cord leading to paralysis / typhoid : intestinal fever and gastric ulceration) claimed the lives of many people in Britain, and crippled many more. Both of these are faecal-oral diseases, i.e. brought about by mouth contact with excreta. It was shown that many of the victims succumbed after having been swimming in sewage polluted water. One such victim was Caroline, the young daughter of Tony Wakefield. As a result, Tony Wakefield founded the Coastal Anti-Pollution League to fight the problem of sewage pollution of sea bathing waters. His was the very first organisation to campaign on this issue.

Due to the growing pressure and concern from victims and relatives, a Royal Commission was set up which reported in 1959 with the conclusion:

“On the proviso that the bathing water is not so polluted as to be aesthetically revolting there should be no danger to public health.”

This was promptly interpreted by the sewage disposal companies to imply that if you can’t see it, you are safe. Strangely enough, this statement was in part true as any potential sea bather would readily have seen in the sea the turds, condoms and sanitary towels emanating from untreated sewage outfalls, but would not do so if such were not obvious. Thus superficially and erroneously it could be concluded that the apparently clean bathing water was safe to swim in.

Very regrettably, this report was consequently used as an excuse by the disposal authorities to continue to pump untreated sewage to the sea. For example, Anglia Water’s criteria for marine sewage disposal was stated as:

“Where effluent is discharged to the sea, the impact on the receiving water cannot be assessed in a manner used for works on inland waters. The criteria for the performance is then related to the visible effect of the discharge on the coastal water or the foreshore. A sea outfall is judged to be satisfactory if under normal operation it does not cause solid matter to be deposited on the shore, etc…”

In other words, a further rendition of: ‘if you can’t see it, you’re safe’.

The result of this mis-translation was the ‘Long Sea Outfall’, where the sewage was chopped up and passed through a 6mm (¼”) mesh in order to trap all the solid items such as contraceptives, tampons, sanitary towels and panty liners which would betray the presence of untreated sewage. This “treated” or disguised sewage was then discharged into the sea via a pipeline (‘long sea outfall’). These pipelines discharged at any point between the high-tide water mark and the low-tide water mark or beyond, depending on the location.

The solid items trapped by the 6mm mesh were disposed of at a landfill site.

However the faecal content, no longer recognisable due to being chopped up, was still present in the sewage effluent (liquid) and remained completely untreated.

In fact the health hazard is actually magnified in these circumstances. Due the organic matter present in the effluent (macerated/chopped up sewage) the oxygen content of the receiving water — which would normally aid the killing of the pathogens — is reduced by the effluent’s biological oxygen demand (BOD) which consumes the naturally occurring dissolved oxygen present in the sea water.

Furthermore the turbidity created by the dispersed sludge (macerated sewage) in the liquid effluent renders the receiving sea water murky so that sunlight cannot penetrate — the sun’s ultra-violet light also being a requirement to kill off the pathogens. (See evidence for the House of Commons Environment Committee Fourth Report, Session 1989-90, ‘Pollution of Beaches’, Volume III, Appendices, pages 477- 482, ISBN 0 10 297890 5).

But worst of all was the fact that the unwitting holiday visitor would inspect the water’s edge, see no visible signs of sewage pollution and then conclude that it was safe to swim in. Nothing could be further from the truth!

To save treatment and manpower costs, many sewage treatment plants were actually closed down in order to aid and abet the profits required by the water companies, newly privatised in 1991. For example, the Caister-on-Sea Sewage Treatment works on the Norfolk coast, which prior-treated most of the sewage from the wider Great Yarmouth area, was closed down in favour of a long sea outfall (pipeline) extending out 900 metres from the shoreline. It helped create for Anglian Water a profit of £187 million in the following year.

This particular plan went ahead despite howls of protest, a record packed public meeting opposing the venture, press campaigns, widespread leaflet distribution and a large petition. Sadly, believing the hype of “improved treatment” presented by the water company, Great Yarmouth Borough Council gave the scheme its blessing only to later find, just as forecast, that all of its resort’s bathing waters had become even more polluted.

Similar long sea outfalls were installed at Scarborough, Margate and many other resorts around the UK for the same reasons, none of which resulted in their sea bathing waters passing the imperative Mandatory Standard of the European Bathing Water Directive, 76/160/EEC.

Thus despite the failure of sea bathing waters to meet these legal European health safety standards, this plan to install long sea outfalls (pipelines reaching out from the shore and discharging largely untreated sewage) continued. In Norfolk for example, long sea outfalls were planned at West Runton to take the untreated sewage from the Sheringham and Cromer area directly to the sea.

Proving the Health Links

Since the Royal Commission’s 1959 report, many medical, scientific and epidemiological studies have taken place evidencing the health problems due to the presence of sewage in bathing waters.

One of the first of these was the work of Professor Victor Cabelli and his colleagues performing studies for the United States Environmental Protection Agency. He and his team studied the short-term resultant health effects on 30,000 beach users enjoying the eastern coasts off the USA.

This study measured the number of faecal coliforms present in the water in which people were swimming, and related the resultant illness levels to the concentration of faecal coliforms discovered.

Faecal coliforms [for example, Escherichia coli] are a thermo-tolerant coliform, found present in large numbers in human excreta. Unless a mutant form — such as E-Coli-0157 — they are benign, and offer no threat unless they enter the bloodstream as in cases of peritonitis, etc. They are in fact symbiotic, performing the essential major role in the digestion and conversion of our food. We all have many billions of such in our lower intestine, and would be in a poor way without them.

However they are a major indicator of the presence of sewage, being proportional to the faecal content in any body water where sewage has been introduced. Yet although the coliforms themselves are benign, untreated sewage contains many other pathogens which are highly dangerous to health. Again, for details see above and www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/pathogens-identified-in-sewage-contaminated-bathing-water

Prof. Cabelli discovered that at levels of 10 faecal coliforms per 100ml of bathing water, an excess disease rate was visited upon 8 out of every thousand bathers.

At a level of 100 F/Coli per 100ml he found the rate of infection rose to 30 per thousand (3%) and at 1,000 F/Coli per 100ml it rose to 50 per thousand (5%).

He did not go above this concentration because, in his own mind, such a level of sewage pollution was unthinkable. But then he had not come to Britain, where levels of up to 500,000 F/Coli per 100ml were being found.

Neither did he look for the long term infections with far longer incubation periods, such as hepatitis, the symptoms of which appear after more than ten days.

As a result of this research, the World Health Organisation (WHO) pointed to the invalidity of the ‘research’ of the outdated 1959 Royal Commission Report, and did its own evaluation based upon the meaningful evidence now available. In its 1986 paper entitled ‘Correlation between Coastal Water Quality and Health Effects’ the WHO concluded “Swimming activities in coastal areas where faecal pollution is present carry a real public health risk”.

In February 1987 the British Medical Association withdrew their support for the outdated Royal Commission Report.

Before, during and since that time many more studies have been conducted, all further evidencing the threat. The UK government commissioned a study at Langland Bay, in the Gower area of South Wales, which further demonstrated the problem. Lancashire County Council also demonstrated that even higher levels of infection resulted in younger children due to their lower immunity.

At Blackpool a team of local doctors found that sudden epidemics resulted in the local population following south-westerly gales. This study revealed that the airborne viruses responsible for the epidemics were being carried well inland in the spray from the sewage polluted sea, thus showing that one need not enter the sea to get an infection as it readily came to you.

The Protest Commences

It was in August 1986 that the North Sea Action Group (founded by the author and colleagues) teamed up with local doctors to carry out its own epidemiological survey at Great Yarmouth.

The survey showed that whilst only 2.2% of the people who stayed on the beach complained of faecally ascribed infection symptoms, in the case of those that went swimming the level was 19.6%.

Of those who knowingly swallowed sea water whilst swimming, 29% showed a variety of short term sewage related contact symptoms. These varied from ear and eye infections to skin rashes, infected wounds from shingle cuts, sand scuff abrasions and sunburn sores, diarrhoea and vomiting, biliousness and nausea, stomach pains and general malaise, with a far higher incidence in younger children.

The North Sea Action Group, a forerunner of MARINET, issued the findings of that survey to the media and followed up with numerous other actions, much to the anger of Great Yarmouth Borough Council which, concerned with the impact to the holiday trade, promptly threatened to sue.

However the Council called off the action when their legal advisers pointed out that the North Sea Action Group’s (NSAG) findings were factual, and that far greater damage to the tourist income would result from wider publicity of the situation.

NSAG’s campaign included the hoisting of Jolly Roger flags to supplant the ‘Blue Flags’ flying at the beaches (a ‘Blue Flag’ indicated safe bathing) and the distribution of a series of leaflet hand-outs to holidaymakers at the worst polluted beaches in order to warn them of the perils of swimming there. Further leaflets and descriptive four page pamphlets were popped through letterboxes and distributed to the local hotels, guest houses and B&Bs.

A thousand fluorescent eye-catching stickers like that below were placed in car windows.

Samples of leaflets and four page pamphlets descriptive of the true condition of the polluted East Anglian beaches were handed out to holidaymakers along the beaches to warn them of the risks they were taking.

Samples of some of those distributed publications:

The concerned local doctors white-painted the untreated sewage outfall points and wrote onto them signs drawing attention to the outfalls such as ‘Danger – untreated sewage!’. These were rapidly painted over in black by the Council, which gave an even better background for the re-painting of further white warning signs! Then when the Council painted these over in white, the warnings were re-introduced with black lettering! This redecoration went on until finally the Council’s officials eventually apprehended the artists and slapped a prohibition order on them which of course resulted in even more publicity of the prevailing situation.

Photo of white-painted sewage outfall pipe

A demonstration and leafleting of councillors, guests and the media invited to the grand opening of the new sewage ‘treatment’ works followed. The police were called in and asked to stop this by evicting the protestors, but it was soon pointed out that they were well within their rights to hold such a peaceful protest. So we, the protestors, did just that.

A march comprised of several hundred members of the public, the North Sea Action Group, Friends of the Earth, Trade Unionists, supportive councillors and Greenpeace (the very first combined action uniting Friends of the Earth with Greenpeace) went on from the Caister sewage works to hold a well attended meeting on the beach. This was well publicised on TV, on the radio and in the press, so further raising public awareness.

A packed meeting opposing the venture was organised to take place at Great Yarmouth Town Hall. It turned out to be the largest public meeting ever held in Great Yarmouth. It was backed by press campaigns, further leafleting and a large petition.

Some NSAG members even purchased single Anglian Water shares so as to gain entry to their Annual General Meeting. There they vociferously raised concern with the shareholders and the press, whilst those declining to buy such shares mounted a leafleting and consultation with those attending. This protest resulted in a further good exposition, eclipsing the press content that the company would have liked to have seen.

Programmes about the issue resulted on ITV’s ‘First Tuesday’ and a half page article by Pat Gowen was printed in The Guardian newspaper, with much more publicity from the East Anglian, national and even international TV, radio and press which brought about national, indeed international awareness of what was happening.

The EEC Steps In

Following our complaints, and thus conscious of the situation and the threat to public health and the environment and its amenity value, the European Economic Community (EEC) — now the European Union (EU) — brought in the Bathing Water Directive 76/160/EEC in December 1975.

The Directive first asked all EEC member countries to designate their bathing waters. France and Italy both came up with over 3,000 resorts. Even lovely little land locked Luxembourg with no sea beaches whatsoever came up with 47, all being inland waters, lakes, etc. Britain, with the second longest coastline in Europe, produced just 27. Incredibly the UK government had decided that there was not a single beach where people went bathing in the entirety of Norfolk and Suffolk. Even Blackpool, the biggest and most crowded beach in all of Europe, was not a bathing beach in their eyes!

Their methodology for arriving at this amazing discovery was soon revealed. It transpired that the UK Department of the Environment had sent the Water Authorities out on a cold, wet Saturday in early July to count the number of bathers in the sea, probably fully aware that this day was well before the main holiday season began and, Saturday being a day when people generally either finish or begin their holiday, very few people would be using the beach on that particular day.

When the findings arrived back at the DoE, the Department then decided what would constitute a ‘bathing beach’. It decided that there had to be 1,500 people per mile on the beach and 500 bathers in the sea at any one time!

Since then, thanks to the reaction that resulted, sanity has eventually prevailed, and the European Commission ruled that a bathing beach was anywhere “where bathing is traditionally practiced by a large number of bathers” and, as a result, the original 27 bathing beaches have gradually increased to 587 of our 3,000+ seaside resorts that should be designated.

However still to this day, less than 1% of our well used inland lakes, broads and rivers are designated.

Microbiological Limit Levels

The members of the EEC decided on limits to the number of coliforms that could be permitted to be present in the bathing water to enable it to pass an imperative (mandatory) level of quality which had to be met within ten years from the time of the implementation of the December 1975 Bathing Waters Directive.

Thus, after January 1986 there must be no more than 10,000 total coliforms and/or 2,000 faecal coliforms present in 100 ml of the bathing water in 19 (95%) of the twenty samplings that were to be taken in a year.

The ‘year’ was considered by the UK to be a ‘bathing season’ which commenced in May and ceased in September each year. This definition of ‘year’ completely failed to recognise the use of the sea by the many surfers, kite surfers, windsurfers and even brave bathers who use our bathing beaches in the months of Autumn, Winter and early Spring, and so declined to classify these users of the sea as ‘bathers’.

The coliform concentrations permitted by the Directive — known as its Mandatory Value — were of a very high level when related to Cabelli’s findings, permitting well over 5% infection thus making it a quality standard which is easily achievable. However the EEC is, after all, an economic community and not a health service.

In addition, the 76/160/EEC Bathing Water Directive dictated that there must be a complete absence of both enteroviruses and salmonella in a bathing water throughout the year for it to meet the Mandatory Value.

The EEC also decided upon a recommended Guideline Value which member states “must strive to meet”. This was a far more sensible value – indeed, one which if exceeded results in the closure of bathing resorts to the public in North America because of the threat to public health. Only this Guideline Value is unlike the mandatory levels in that it is not imperative (legally enforceable). It was simply given as “a level that authorities should strive to meet”. Additionally, it did not specifically demand the absence of enteroviruses and salmonella as it was assumed that if the bathing water had passed the Mandatory Standard it would prove unnecessary to further include these parameters.

The EEC Guideline Value calls for no more than 500 total coliforms, and/or 100 faecal coliforms or 100 faecal streptococci per 100 ml of bathing water in order to comply with its Guideline Standard, and that at least 80% of the samplings must meet this level.

There were many other Guideline parameters to be met also, such as no oil, no tar, no heavy metals, no phenols and other unpleasant contents. However it is mainly the microbiological components that are significant to health. The 76/160/EEC Bathing Water Directive can be read by going to http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:31976L0160

National Non-Conformity

After the ten years allowed to produce compliance, e.g. by January 1986, Britain’s beach resorts were more polluted than ever.

The government’s main excuse for selling off the nationally owned water companies to private ownership was to provide the capital needed to bring our ailing sewage services up to the standards required to meet the legal levels. But they stayed far from it!

On 17th November 1994 Robert Atkins, Minister of State for the Environment, announced that 82% of the (then) 457 Bathing Waters passed the Mandatory Standard of the Bathing Waters Directive, claiming this to be “a continuing improvement”.

Recognising the highly dubious truth of this claim the NSAG, working with Friends of the Earth, decided to obtain the actual findings of the tests performed in order to discover the realistic mandatory pass rate, as is a right under the 76/160/EC Bathing Water Directive.

Letters requesting the results of the analyses were sent to all the water companies of Britain. This resulted in some refusing the information, some referring us to the (then) Department of the Environment, and some demanding a charge of 10p per result for the data. As there were so many parameters, 457 resorts and twenty tests per year, the cost of the exercise would have been prohibitive.

However having a right to have sight of them, as detailed in the Directive itself, your author travelled to those who failed to reveal the information in order to inspect the Water Register of each and every water company [a Water Register contains all the official records and is free to view]. By reading the results from off the computer screen and speaking them into a portable tape recorder, all were eventually gathered without excessive cost to us.

On calculating the conformity of the findings to the mandatory demands of the 76/160/EC Bathing Water Directive, the discrepancies in the highly optimistic claim made by Minister of State for the Environment became obvious. They were published on the NSAG website for all to see, and consolidated into booklets printed and distributed by the North Sea Action Group and Norfolk Friends of the Earth (NFoE).

In order to make the public aware of the facts and also to raise money for the NSAG/NFoE campaign, in 1995 Pat Gowen wrote a 78 page booklet entitled ‘The North Sea Action Group’s Good Beach Guide’ covering all the Norfolk and Suffolk resorts.

Copies were distributed to every bookseller along the entire East Anglian coast. The publication gave a short history of the saga, the complete microbiological analyses and findings of every resort in Norfolk and Suffolk, a description of the beach and general area itself, with recommendations as to where it was or was not safe to swim.

It was a sell out, and produced a marked migration of holidaymakers from the polluted popular resorts to those recommended beaches of far better quality.

The following year a further more comprehensive 114 page edition followed including (by popular request) also the results and findings of Lincolnshire and Essex.

‘Good Beach Guides’ published by NSAG/NFoE

‘Good Beach Guides’ published by NSAG/NFoE

The Good Beach Guides drew attention to the fact that of the 34 East Anglian resorts tested in 1999, 17 were proven to pass the full Mandatory Standard whilst an equal number failed. (The government claimed 23 passes and 11 failures that year!). The 2000 testing (for the 2001 status) showed 18 resorts to pass and 15 to fail, with only one being of unproven compliance. The 2001 testing, for the 2002 status, proved 20 resorts to pass, 13 to fail and one of unknown compliance.

Beaches around the country were showing serious levels of sewage pollution, so the local protest groups banded together to combat it.

A meeting of Manhood Peninsula FoE, Sussex, and the NSAG came about at Selsey, Sussex, in 2002. Later in 2002 at the Friends of the Earth Local Groups Conference MARINET was formed in order to act as a FoE Local Group national network, as FoE did not cover marine issues.

Nationally failures to comply with the Mandatory levels of the Directive were similarly recorded, with beaches in North West England being some of the worst. Blackpool, the most used and most popular beach in Europe, was one of the most polluted. Thus a formal complaint was made to DG-XI, the administrative and legal wing of the EEC’s Commission which dealt with environmental legislation.

Legal proceedings against the UK were taken under Reference IP/00/1541 in respect of the Blackpool beaches (only). A successful hearing came about in the European Court, later resulting in the imposition of a huge 106,800 Euros (£87,000) per day fine placed by the European Court on 13th November 2002 in respect of the UK’s failure to meet the Mandatory Standard as required by Directive. This European Court judgment was based upon just three of the Blackpool area bathing waters.

A sudden and amazing change came about the following year.

The mind of our government must have been focused to the fact that the only way to stop the daily fine was to claim that the failing resorts met the coliform standards. Indeed, by some miracle, it was claimed that they all so did. A remarkable reduction of coliform concentration (upon which the fine was based) came about — although it is to be noted that all the resorts failed the Mandatory Standard’s requirement of a zero level of enteroviruses. Enteroviruses were discovered present at every resort in the North West Region.

The 2003 test results, giving the compliance for 2004, showed that 16 of the region’s 34 resorts were tested for salmonella, and that all passed. 16 resorts were tested for enteroviruses, of which 12 passed. With all coliform tests claimed to pass, this gave 11 passes, 5 failures and 18 resorts not fully tested (these therefore being of unknown compliance).

As the original judgment of the European Court based it’s finding on coliform non-compliance, it is very doubtful that the European Commission could now go back to re-imposing the fine on a different vector, i.e. enteroviruses. This would almost certainly have required a new legal case, and this would require many years to bring about just as the original legal case had done.

Since then, the results of the tests made by the Environment Agency (EA) have been used from which to calculate the factual compliance of each of our UK designated bathing waters. The factual compliance (or otherwise) so revealed is very different from that claimed and put out as Press Releases by the Department for the Environment (Defra) and hence the EA, who have closed their eyes and ears to those resorts failing to meet the compliance for both enteroviruses and salmonella mandatory levels.*

* Editor’s Note: The Bathing Water Directive 76/160/EEC has now been replaced by a new Directive 2006/7/EC – see section on this new Directive later on. Suffice to say here that the microbiological parameters used for assessing Mandatory and Guideline compliance have been reformed (changed), and this new Directive has been legally operative since 2015. The national results under the new Directive 2006/7/EC are now published annually for England by the Department for the Environment (Defra), see www.gov.uk/government/statistics/bathing-water-quality-statistics and by the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The detailed results throughout the season for each bathing resort in England are provided by the Environment Agency and can be seen at https://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles with similar profiles provided by the Agencies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Blue Flag Issue

Blue Flags are supposed to be issued to those resorts that meet stipulated criteria, including the Directive’s Guideline Standard for coliform and faecal streptococci levels. In practice they are given completely ignoring the more essential imperative Mandatory Standard which demands a total absence of both enteroviruses and salmonella.

When the first Blue Flags were produced in 1989 for Britain’s least foul bathing waters, they were issued to 22 resorts.

Inspection and analysis of these showed that only one of these (Exmouth) had been tested for enteroviruses and salmonella, and that this had failed. Not a single one of the Blue Flag awarded resorts had been proven to pass the Mandatory Standard.

But at least the amenity values demanded for a Blue Flag are honestly met. For full details of the Blue Flag hype, please visit “Blue Flags, Blue Flag look-alikes and Jolly Rogers” by going to the article to be found on this website at www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/blue-flags-blue-flag-look-alikes-and-jolly-rogers

Note: A supplementary report on this issue is a report dated August 2010 written by Surfers Against Sewage; apply to Surfers Against Sewage in order to see this.

Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC

Editorial note: Pat Gowen was unable to complete this article due to declining health and, as explained in the Preface, he asked me to arrange and complete the article for him. Therefore from this point forward the text is based on his notes for this article and earlier written contributions by him for Marinet.

The new Directive, 2006/7/EC, has sought to take account of improving knowledge since the original Directive came into force (December 1975) concerning the microbiological and related health impacts from sewage discharged into bathing waters, and thus has sought to devise a monitoring regime more suited to the present time whilst also taking into account other legislative changes, e.g. the introduction of related Directives affecting sewage treatment, such as the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, 91/271/EEC, and the Water Framework Directive, 2000/60/EC. The text of the new Bathing Water Directive, 2006/7/EC, can be seen at www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/new-eu-bathing-water-directive

At the time of the new Directive’s formulation Marinet raised a number of concerns with the UK authorities (DEFRA) as to the priorities and possible shortcomings of the new legislation. These are recorded on our website, see www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/a-response-to-defra. To summarise the main points:

● The new Directive should embrace a definition of a “bathing season” which covers not just the summer but all months of the year. This ensures that those who use the sea outside of the summer, e.g. surfers and sailing clubs, are fully protected.

This is also related to the issue of combined sewer overflows (CSOs). All sewage works have a finite, limited capacity and it is important, if the sewage works is to operate 100% effectively, that it is not overloaded.

Overloading can be brought about by a sudden influx of population, e.g. coastal resorts often have a population several times greater in summer months relative to winter months. However a more common reason is the widespread practice of combining surface water collection systems (e.g. from hard surfaces such as roads and paved areas) with foul water systems which collect sewage. Good practice requires that these two systems should be distinct and separate. However financial economies in the provision of water collection systems have often led to the surface and foul water systems being combined into one collection system (sewer) which then connects with the sewage works.

The problem posed by combined sewers generally arises when it rains. If the surface water collection system is separate from the foul water system, the surface water (which is relatively clean, i.e. low microbiological contamination) can be discharged to a river or the sea relatively safely. However if the two collection systems have been combined then the combined flows all go to the sewage works, thus obviously creating an increased load on the sewage works. Most sewage works have spare capacity, along with additional storage tanks in some cases, but when the rain is very heavy the volume of water arriving at the sewage works may exceed the work’s capacity. In these circumstances the sewage works has to discharge the excess (foul and surface water) via a pipeline overflow into a river or the sea untreated.

These combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are highly polluting in microbiological terms because they involve the discharge of raw sewage. They are at their most frequent during exceptional events (thunderstorms) and during wet periods of the year (winter). The existence of CSOs is therefore a hazard to sea bathing in the summer following a ‘break-up’ in good weather and during any period of extended rainfall at other times of the year.

CSO events are most frequent outside the ‘official summer bathing season’, and it is for this reason that Marinet and others sought for the new Directive to be applied all year round, thus protecting users of the sea outside of summer months. It is also to be noted that in the case of the less well performing bathing waters, CSOs are often the cause of poor bathing water quality. In these circumstances the sewage works is limited in capacity and so even in summer months low rainfall can trigger the use of the combined sewer overflow.

● Whilst the new Directive focused on improved microbiological standards, see the comparison below of the Mandatory Standard for the old Directive relative to the New Directive, the new Directive’s microbiological parameters nevertheless had shortcomings.

Old Directive, 76/160/EEC

Parameter

Mandatory Standard

Total coliforms per 100ml

10,000

Faecal coliforms per 100ml

2,000

Faecal streptococci per 100ml

- *

Salmonella per 1 litre

0

Enteroviruses PFU/10 litres

0

* The Faecal streptococci sampling only applied to the Guideline Standard.

New Directive, 2006/7/EC

Parameter

Excellent Standard

Intestinal enterococci per 100ml

100

Eschererichia coli per 100ml

250

As has been explained earlier, the most significant pathogens are not actually sampled by either of the Bathing Water Directives’ monitoring regimes (76/160/EEC or 2006/7/EC), and the Mandatory/Excellent Standard of these Directives, as well as Guideline/Good Standard, use substitutes which are broad indicators of the presence of sewage, e.g. faecal coliforms, intestinal enterococci.

In the case of the old Directive, 76/160/EEC, the Mandatory Standard did actually take a step in the right direction regarding the detection of the potential presence of these more significant pathogens by requiring the monitoring for Salmonella and Enteroviruses under this Standard. However this component of the Mandatory Standard was never enforced, and monitoring for these parameters (salmonella and enteroviruses) rarely took place. It is also worth noting from a public health perspective that a great many of these more significant pathogens, particularly viruses, are capable of surviving for a longer time than bacteria in a saline environment.

This failure to monitor for salmonella and enteroviruses during the life of the old Directive was taken up with the UK government by Marinet and others. The reply received stated that monitoring for these parameters would only take place once a bathing water had failed the Mandatory Standard under the prescribed coliform monitoring procedure. Apart from the illegality in this interpretation of the monitoring procedure and the fact that this interpretation was not allowed for in the text of the Directive, it also had the important consequence that whilst a bathing water which might legally pass the Directive’s requirements under coliform criteria but not in terms of salmonella or enteroviruses (i.e. the most dangerous pathogens), it meant that the bathing waters failure under the Directive was never actually identified.

Further, even in the case of bathing waters which did legally fail under the coliform criteria, the actual monitoring for salmonella and enteroviruses was very spasmodic (i.e. just once a year) and, in all too many cases, wholly absent.

This failure by the UK government to apply the full rigour of the Mandatory Standard was taken up with DG XI of the European Commission, but the Commission acquiesced in this weak interpretation of the Mandatory Standard and took no enforcement action.

Consequently during the lifetime of the old Directive (from 1976-2014), this means that the full nature and the true extent of the sewage pollution, along with the attendant health risks associated with bathing waters polluted in this way, has never been properly assessed and remains unrevealed.

Accordingly Marinet and others wanted the new Directive, 2006/7/EC, operative from 2015 and ostensibly implementing a higher yardstick of monitoring quality, to include regular monitoring for salmonella and enteroviruses.

Alas, these specific parameters were excluded from the new Directive and so the true nature and extent of sewage related pollution of our bathing waters continues to remain unassessed and unrevealed. In his notes Pat Gowen also observes: “We asked that the presence of any new and dangerous pathogens (such as E-Coli-0157 likely to be present when abattoir waste is discharged to an outfall) should additionally be investigated. Further, with the newly mutated ‘SARS’ coronavirus linked to sewage proving so contagious, tests for the presence of this dangerous pathogen also needed to be instituted, as well as any new mutant infective transmissible pathogens discovered in the future.” Neither the UK nor the EU governments have been receptive.

● A further dimension is the method and storage of the samples taken to test for compliance. The need for a clearly defined methodology in the new Directive was represented to the UK government by Marinet. In his notes for this section, Pat Gowen observes:

“It all goes back to when the excuse, given by the newly privatised water companies [1989] for closing coastal sewage treatment plants and piping the mashed but untreated sewage direct to the sea, was the well claimed ‘T-90’ test.

“This dictates that coliforms decay by 90% for every four hours of their immersion in sea water. (This is in the main true for the highly saline, warmer, sunlit clear waters of the Mediterranean, but certainly not for the cold, grey and murky North Sea). I did some empirical research on this, and on the coliform life-span for stored samples of sewage polluted sea water.

“From my enquiries with the water companies on their method of sample analysis, I found delays of sometimes well over a day before the samples for coliform analysis were taken out of the sea water. This would mean that a bathing water sample with, for example, 100,000 faecal coliforms per 100 ml would show a reading of just 10,000 coliforms after four hours of storage and, correspondingly 1,000 coliforms after eight hours, 100 after twelve hours, 10 coliforms after sixteen hours and only one coliform after 20 hours if the sample of sea water were kept shaken in transport at car temperature, were oxygenated by an air gap in the container and was in light. However this rate of coliform decay becomes far less in cooled, full, sealed containers kept in darkness without turbulence.

“Nevertheless, even under ideal sample storage conditions, I found that 75% of the coliforms had decayed over 24 hours. In the case of 24 hours of waiting in room temperature, I would guesstimate that the coliform decay was at least 90%, possibly more than 99%, so bringing a non-compliant sampling from say 3,000 coliforms/100ml down to a count of between 300 to 30/100ml, e.g. a Mandatory failure had been transformed into a Guideline pass.

“For my evidence to the House of Commons Session 1989-90 Environment Committee Enquiry into the Pollution of Beaches — given following Bob Earll’s who was then with the Marine Conservation Society — see Volume II, Minutes of Evidence, page 293-323, HMSO ISBN 0 10 297790 9. For the specific data on the coliform decay rate of stored samples under different conditions see page 482-498 of Volume III Appendices, ISBN 0 10 297890 5. Your local library should be able to get this for you.

“If the European Commission, as I implored, had demanded proper sampling and storage incorporated into the new Directive, then the results of analysis may have become realistic. However I think you will find that lobbying by the water companies and our government will have seen that off, otherwise the truth of our ailing bathing waters would be revealed. Further, to have rid the salmonella and enterovirus samplings from the new Directive would mean that a false glossy picture will still go on being painted.

“I would be very surprised if the UK government (DEFRA) has not built in some loopholes and means of escape. It is not in the financial interests of the water companies and the government to have the facts known. Profits are seen as paramount relative to public health, as you will have noted from the BSE/CJD scandal, the mobile telephones hazard, GM food concerns, and much, much more.

“It is very disappointing and sad to me that the Marine Conservation Society offers no opposition to this scam despite my imploring them to take up the cudgels on the misinformation and fiddling which still goes on, year after year. Their tacit acceptance of the official line still amazes me, and I fail to comprehend the reason for this.”

● A provision in the new Directive 2006/7 EC, not present in the old Directive, is that the sampling authority — the Environment Agency, advised by the water company — can discount and eliminate any sample which breaches the new Directive’s performance standards if it can be argued that “short-term pollution” circumstances prevailed at the time (defined as an event not generally lasting longer than 72 hours) and “distorted” the sample reading. For example, an exceptional storm or breakdown in the sewage works. The new Directive also stipulates that a replacement sample must be taken when these short term pollution circumstances have passed, and this procedure of discounting can be conducted to a limit of 15% of the overall samples taken in a bathing season. [Editorial Note: A further provision in the Directive allows for a suspension of monitoring if an “abnormal situation” arises, defined as circumstances not repeated with a frequency greater than once in four years (ref. Article 2, sections 8 and 9). So far it appears that the UK has only sought to implement ‘short-term pollution’ events in its monitoring regime and ‘abnormal situations’ have not occurred (not been used in monitoring). However it has to be observed that by defining a ‘short-term pollution’ event as not being an abnormal situation does effectively render it as normal, i.e. something that can be accepted with a degree of regularity. Are we therefore expected to accept under the new Directive that repeated sewage pollution events, classed as short term pollution, are normal rather than abnormal? If so, this greatly debases the integrity and value of the Directive whose purpose is to protect the public from the health risks of sewage pollution.]

The “short-term pollution” event was a new provision and practice in the sampling regime of the new Directive which greatly concerned Pat Gowen because he believed it might easily lead to a distortion of the true compliance record. His notes observe:

“We note that the new Directive will allow for the discounting of up to 15% of samples. We cannot see other than that this may be used as a further means of escaping condemnation for failing waters, as repeated samplings could be instituted until one that passes the requirements results, so further producing false compliance.”

Is there any truth in his concern? To explore this question, the editor of this article has examined the detailed monitoring results under the new Directive for 3 of the principal bathing waters on the West Lancashire coast during the summers of 2016 and 2017 (with which he is familiar having campaigned for improvements to these bathing areas in the 1980s under the old Directive) — Ainsdale (site of the Pontin’s Southport Holiday Park) and the two beaches of the coast’s main seaside towns, Southport (Southport pier) and Blackpool (Blackpool Central).

Reproduced below are summary results for these beaches in 2016 and 2017, taken from the Environment Agency website which gives the full detailed readings during the whole bathing season https://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles . At each beach 20 samples were taken during the bathing season, 3 of which were eligible as retakes of the original sample should it be considered to be necessary to “discount” (eliminate) the sample due to “short term pollution” resulting in an exceedance reading.
Note: 15% of 20 samples = 3 samples.

Location

Year

Original Samples

Discounted Samples

Toatal Samples, excluding discountd samples

Overall Standard

Ainsdale

2016
20
1

19

Good

Ainsdale

2017
20

3

17

Good

Southport

2016
20

3

17

Good

Southport

2017
20

3

17

Good

Blackpool

2016

20

3

17

Good

Blackpool

2017
20

3

17

Good

There are four Standards of Quality under the new Directive: Excellent, Good, Sufficient, or Poor. For details of the Quality Standards under the new Directive, see www.marinet.org.uk/campaign-article/new-eu-bathing-water-directive

The Excellent and Good Standards require 95% of valid samples (i.e. non-discounted) to meet the required standard, and the Sufficient Standard requires 90% to meet the required standard (i.e. 1 failure in 20 valid samples against the appropriate bacteriological ceiling level is permissible under the Excellent and Good Standards, and 2 failures in 20 valid samples against the appropriate bacteriological ceiling level is permissible under the Sufficient Standard)

Each of these Standards has a higher/lower hurdle (ceiling level) for the actual microbiological level in connection with compliance (pass/fail) against that Standard. Where the samples throughout the season fail to meet the Sufficient Standard, then the beach is classified as Poor Standard. Under such circumstances, public information is required to be issued to potential bathers about the microbiological condition of that beach, and 5 years of repeated Poor Standard means disqualification of that beach as a bathing beach.

What is evident from the 2016 and 2017 performance at Ainsdale, Southport and Blackpool and the quality of their bathing water is as follows:

● None of these beaches were able to meet the Excellent Standard, even when 3 or less samples had been discounted.

● In all of the beaches between 1 and 3 samples were being discounted in order to enable the beach to comply with the Good Standard.

● At each beach “discounting” was employed in 2016 and 2017 :
Ainsdale 2016 : 1 discount — Ainsdale 2017 : 3 discounts.
Southport 2016 : 3 discounts — Southport 2017 : 3 discounts.
Blackpool 2016 : 3 discounts — Blackpool 2017 : 3 discounts.

Thus it is clear that the “discounting system” (not available under the old Directive) has been used repeatedly by the authorities to assist in their performance rating under the new Directive.

One therefore wonders to what degree the true reality at bathing beaches throughout the UK is being concealed by the use of the “discount system”, especially when taking into account the fact that the actual microbiological counts in samples can be manipulated if the sample is not counted immediately (ref. Pat Gowen’s comments on the ‘T-90’ issue)?

In these matters certainty is always going to be elusive given the nature of the sampling system that the new Directive has allowed for. Alas, Pat Gowen’s reservations about the new Directive do appear to have evidence to sustain them. This is worrying. Even more worrying is the clear fact that sewage pollution of our bathing waters still remains widespread, even if the actual degree is less certain.

● Where certainty would seem stronger is in the matter of the repeat nature of the use of the “discounting system”. As can be seen in the case of three of the main West Lancashire bathing beaches, this use has been consistent and almost fully utilised. Is this “legal”? Article 2, section 8, of Directive 2006/7/EC states: “‘short-term pollution’ means microbiological contamination as referred to in Annex I, column A, that has clearly identifiable causes, is not normally expected to affect bathing water quality for more than approximately 72 hours after the bathing water quality is first affected and for which the competent authority has established procedures to predict and deal with as set out in Annex II”

Certainly repeated discounting using the ‘short term pollution’ provision is legal, but is it really a sustainable argument to assert that these short term pollution events which occur regularly each year and which are being discounted so as to disguise true performance (hoodwink the public) is normal and not abnormal? The normalisation of sewage pollution appears to be an acceptable approach, as well as the manipulation of the quality rating.

It would seem that this is a matter which requires examination by the UK Government and DGXI of the European Commission to see whether not just the spirit but also the letter of the law is being complied with, and one wonders how far this practice is also being repeated elsewhere at bathing beaches in the UK? This is a subject awaiting detailed analysis.

This potential “manipulation” also lends credence to Pat Gowen’s concerns.

Note: In the case of the bathing beach at Blackpool North (North Pier, which is adjacent to the main bathing beach — Blackpool Central) the Quality Standard achieved for 2016 was Sufficient. This beach had three discountable samples in 2016, and therefore it is very likely that if “discounts” had not been employed this beach would only have achieved the Poor Standard, and so effectively failed the quality requirements of the new Directive. These are sensitive questions because it would be very bad publicity for one of Blackpool’s beaches to “fail”, scoring only the Poor Quality Standard.

To conclude this section on the new EU Directive 2006/7/EC which has been operational since 2015, we provide some summary tables of performance for English beaches prepared by DEFRA, with UK summary results also available: ref. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bathing-waters-in-england-compliance-reports and www.gov.uk/government/collections/bathing-waters#bathing-water-classifications-for-england:-2017

Classification of beaches in England, 2016:

Excellent

Good

Sufficient

Poor

Total

287

98

22

6

413

69.5% of total beaches in England

23.7%

5.3%

1.5%

100%

Those beaches only able to attain the Poor Standard were: Scarborough South Bay, Clacton (Groyne 41), Walpole Bay (Margate, Kent), Instow (North Devon), Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, Burnham Jetty North (Somerset).

Classification of beaches in England, 2017:

Excellent

Good

Sufficient

Poor

Total

270

110

26

7

413

65.4% of total beaches in England

26.6%

6.3%

1.7%

100%

Those beaches only able to attain the Poor Standard were: Scarborough South Bay, Clacton (Groyne 41), Instow (North Devon), Ilracombe Wildersmouth, Combe Martin (North Devon), Burnham Jetty North (Somerset), Weston-super-Mare Uphill Slipway.

How does the performance of the United Kingdom’s beaches (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) compare to other EU countries?

The comparative results are published in full on the European Commission website, and detailed results published by the European Environment Agency for each European country can be seen at www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/status-and-monitoring/state-of-bathing-water/country-reports-2016-bathing-season

The summary performance results for 2016 against the Excellent Standard of Directive 2006/7/EC are as follows:

Country

% of beaches at Excellent Standard

Country

% of beaches at Excellent Standard

Luxembourg

100%

Latvia

82%

Cyprus

99

France

77

Malta

99

Netherlands

75

Greece

97

Slovenia

75

Austria

95

Ireland

73

Croatia

94

Sweden

72

Germany

91

Hungary

71

Italy

91

Romania

70

Denmark

86

Estonia

67

Belgium

85

Poland

66

Lithuania

85

Bulgaria

65

Portugal

85

United Kingdom

65

Spain

85

Slovakia

64

Czech Republic

83

Switzerland

61

Finland

83

Albania

37

The reason why the United Kingdom performs so badly, not just relatively but also absolutely, will be evident to the reader from the foregoing narrative of this article. Namely, the UK still discharges substantial amounts of treated or poorly treated sewage into bathing waters.

This reality is further compounded by the “tricks of the trade” which the UK authorities appear to be employing in order to massage the performance figures and thus understate the true position.

Apart from any moral or aesthetic evaluation of what the public is expected to tolerate is the fact that the public has to experience serious health risks attached to sewage pollution and bathing at beaches where this pollution occurs. Quite simply, unless the beach attains the Excellent Standard then the public is being exposed to a distinct, and sometimes serious, sewage-related health risk — and this occurs at around 35% of UK beaches at the present time.

It is now 42 years since the first EU Directive was introduced. Marinet takes the view that sewage pollution — inadequate sewage treatment — is not only wholly unacceptable but that it is also due to a clear dereliction of duty by the UK Government. Pat Gowen was greatly upset by what he found when he started researching and campaigning on this issue in the 1970s.

Regrettably, he would remain so today.

And the remedy? Pat Gowen would almost certainly say : more of the direct, interventionist protest action that he and colleagues pioneered in the 1970s.

Marinet is here to support all those prepared to act. Pat Gowen did make a difference by his work — a profound difference because the UK government was forced to incorporate into UK law the EU Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) which it wanted to disown, and that Directive’s incorporation into UK law has meant sewage works have had to be built and upgraded.

The legacy left to us all by Pat Gowen is considerable. It is time for us to take his legacy forward in order to improve the future too. That is a message Pat would understand. If you heed it, please contact us: www.marinet.org.uk

January 2018.

 


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