A 'Clean Sweep' as Devon and Cornwall bathing waters pass EU standards for the first time
For the first time ever all the bathing waters in Devon and Cornwall have met the EU standards for bathing water quality.
These results are a testament to South West Water's massive investment in sewage treatment through its £1.5 billion Clean Sweep programme, which has been improving bathing water quality over the last 16 years. The South West now boasts some of the finest beaches and bathing waters in Europe which contributes to its position as Britain's leading holiday destination.
Robin Barker, Deputy Chief Executive South West Tourism, said: "Our studies show that the quality of the beaches and bathing waters are at the top of the list of reasons people like to visit the South West, as well as for those of us who enjoy living here. With over eight million staying visitors coming to Devon and Cornwall a year and total annual tourism spend in the two counties exceeding £4 billion, it adds up to a huge boost for the region's economy."
"We are absolutely delighted with this year's results and want to congratulate everyone involved in this success," said Geoff Boyd, Environment Agency Regional Strategy Manager, "This really shows that all the investment and hard work is continuing to pay off. The next step is for the good work to carry on so that these high standards are maintained in the years to come."
South West Water's Clean Sweep programme began in 1990 and introduced first time sewage treatment to cities, town and villages right round the peninsula. So far, 140 sewage treatment works have been built and around 250 crude sewage outfalls have been closed. South West Water now has 53 sewage treatment works with ultra violet disinfection to reduce bacteria. This is more than any other water company in the country. Bathers, surfers, visitors and residents alike are now able to enjoy the cleanest seas for a generation.
Chris Loughlin, Chief Executive South West Water, said: "We are really pleased with the findings of the end of season bathing report. South West Water is extremely proud of the work it does to improve the environment which benefits the residents and visitors to the region. These results are a great achievement for everyone in the South West who has contributed to making our bathing waters some of the best in Europe. I'd like to thank our customers, staff, partners in local government and the Environment Agency and all the companies who have worked with us and helped make Clean Sweep a resounding success."
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Bathing Water Quality Fact File
- Back in the 1970's, Europe decided that bathing water quality should be monitored and tested in order to protect bathers from health risks and to preserve the environment from pollution. The current directive includes three categories for the classification of bathing waters: "excellent" (guideline), "good" (mandatory) and "poor" (fail). An updated bathing water directive was agreed by the European Union last February and sets higher standards to apply in a few years time.
- The mandatory or good standard determines whether a beaches 'passes' or 'fails'. It is based on the levels of faecal and total coliform bacteria that indicate the presence of pollution from human sewage and or animal sources.
- The guideline or excellent standard is 20 times more stringent than the mandatory standard and has an extra indictor of pollution based on the levels faecal streptococci. If beaches want to apply for blue flag status it is necessary to have the guideline standard in bathing water quality.
- Almost every bathing water which failed to meet the guideline or excellent standard already benefits from UV disinfection suggesting that longer periods of wet weather and pollution run off from agricultural land are now the greatest source of non-compliance risk in the South West.
- In the South West Water region 100% of the bathing waters met the European Union mandatory compliance and 91.7% met the higher guideline compliance. This is compared to 99.3% mandatory and 91% guideline compliance in 2005.
- In Cornwall 100% of the bathing waters achieved mandatory compliance and 96.2% guideline compliance, an improvement on 2005.
- In Devon 100% of the bathing waters achieved mandatory compliance and 86.4% guideline compliance, an improvement on 2005. (NB: these statistics include the two beaches in Dorset - Lyme Regis Church & Lyme Regis Cobb - which are in the SWW region)
- The Clean Sweep programme is one of the biggest environmental programmes in Europe, costing over £1.5 billion. As part of the programme, South West Water has built a wide variety of infrastructure including sewage treatment works, pumping stations and extra UV treatment facilities.
- All of South West Water's new sites are built in a way which is sensitive to the local environment. South West Water also designs its projects to have a minimal environmental impact, in terms of both carbon emissions and disruption to local wildlife.
- There are around 12 crude outfalls in Devon and Cornwall which are yet to be closed. These final projects in the Clean Sweep programme should be completed by December 2008, subject to local agreement on sites, processes and consents.
For the full Defra report please visit their website via the link on the right hand side of this press release
Published: 9 November 2006