Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Clean up local bathing water, council urges

Lancaster City Council is calling for everything possible to be done to improve the quality of bathing water in Morecambe Bay ahead of the introduction of new water quality standards.

Two of the district’s bathing beaches – Morecambe North and South – both passed the current standards for water quality. But Heysham's Half Moon Bay failed to make the grade after twice failing to meet minimum standards in a total of 20 samples which were taken throughout the summer, meaning that it failed overall.

With more rigorous standards due to be introduced in 2015 through the revised Bathing Water Directive, the bar for water quality standards will be raised even further - which mean  all three of the district’s beaches are under threat of failing tests for bathing water quality in the future.

Morecambe Bay is one of the most environmentally important areas in Europe, as well as a seaside resort and a centre for a growing number of water activities. To protect these interests, Lancaster City Council is now renewing its call for more to be done to improve water quality in Morecambe Bay ahead of the 2015 deadline.

“Millions of pounds have been invested in Morecambe over the last 20 years, including the creation of new sandy beaches which, during the summer, are teeming with tourists," notes Coun Ron Sands, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism.

“We are seeing increasing numbers using our waters for pleasure based activities, all of which are important to our local economy. It’s therefore vital that everything possible is done to meet the new standards.

“Ultimately that’s the responsibility of the Environment Agency and we will be making the strongest possible case to them in order to ensure that the cleanliness of our bathing waters remains a top priority and to secure the necessary improvements.

“However, we can all do our bit to protect our waters. One of the reasons the quality failed at Half Moon Bay was because of the dog excrement found it the water. Dogs are already banned from the other two beaches which passed the tests during the summer months and dog waste bins are provided.

“Residents, local businesses and those involved with agriculture all have their part to play – if we all act together we can preserve our waters and support our local economy.”

The revised Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) is an updated version of the current Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) and the Environment Agency says it poses a number of challenges for Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency, Local Authorities and Beach Operators.

Aiming to set more stringent water quality standards and also put a stronger emphasis on beach management and public information, it came into force in March 2006 but the government's plan to respond to the new Directive is being rolled out over many years.

The overall objective of the revised Directive remains the protection of public health whilst bathing, but it also offers an opportunity to improve management practices at bathing waters and to standardise the information provided to bathers across Europe.

Within the revised Bathing Water Directive, the main changes that the Environment Agency will be responsible for implementing, and communicating, include:
  • Changes to the microbiological parameters measured and a reduction in the general parameters currently monitored.
  • A change from measuring compliance using the pass/fail approach to classification based on four classes: poor/sufficient/good/excellent.
  • The requirement for all bathing waters to be classed as ‘sufficient’ by 2015.
  • The development of bathing water profiles for all bathing waters, and a general description based on the profile to be displayed at the bathing water location.
  • The possibility of daily water quality predictions at bathing waters to warn people of poor water quality.
  • The ability to supply more information so the public can choose where to bathe.
• More information on bathing water quality and the steps people can take to help to improve our waters is available from the Environment Agency website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/recreation/119111.aspx

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