Marinet produces as history and assessment of the old and new EU Bathing Water Directives

Pat Gowen

A History of the campaign and struggle to secure the implementation of the European Bathing Water Directive 76/160/EEC (the old Directive) into UK law has been written by at Patrick (Pat) Gowen, 1932-2017, who was a founder member of Marinet and its first chairman.

This History is accompanied by an Assessment of the European Bathing Water Directive 2006/7/EC (the new Directive) written by Stephen Eades with notes by Pat Gowen. The new Directive, which operates a new microbiological assessment and monitoring regime, has been in operation throughout the EU since 2015.

The History of the Old Directive, 76/160/EEC, by Pat Gowen records an exceptional story of the struggle to persuade successive UK governments to incorporate the Directive into UK law and to undertake the accompanying essential improvements in sewage works and related practices. It is a “David and Goliath” story fought by many campaigners throughout the UK over many years.

Pat Gowen’s History also records the nature of the severe health risk run by people exposed to sewage present in bathing waters, and the strategies that have been employed by the authorities (to this day) to conceal this health risk.

The new Directive, 2006/7/EC, has been operational since 2015. Accompanied by notes written by Pat Gowen, Stephen Eades has also provided an outline of the essential features of this new Directive, and has undertaken a limited analysis of the way it is currently being implemented by the UK government and associated authorities.

The Old Directive was never properly implemented and failed to monitor for the presence of the most significant pathogenspathogens A virus, bacterium or parasite which causes disease is a pathogen. Disease causing pathogens live in the environment, and both humans and animals are hosts to them. Pathogenic viruses, bacteria and parasites are present in sewage, originating from humans and animals, and thus it is essential that sewage is given proper treatment in order to disable (kill) these pathogens before the end-products of sewage treatment (solids and water effluent) are returned to the environment. present in sewage contaminated water, despite a legal obligation to do so in the text of the Directive. The New Directive displays not only the same shortcomings in monitoring for the presence of the most significant pathogens, but its implementation by the UK government during its limited period of operation (2015-2017) suggests that the true extent of sewage pollution, and consequential attainment of the Directive’s quality standards, is still being “manipulated” by the authorities.

Whether the limited analysis undertaken by Stephen Eades can be sustained upon detailed examination and application to the monitoring regime at all officially designated bathing waters throughout the UK is a matter open to further research. However what can be reliably asserted is that 35% of official bathing waters in England continue to experience pollution by sewage.

It is now 42 years since regulations were first introduced to address this problem, and it is clear the public needs to remain as wary as ever of the risk to their health if they go bathing at a great many official bathing sites.

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