The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) today grades water
quality at 85% of the UK’s bathing beaches as ‘Good Standard’ following
a mid-summer analysis of water quality data from 553 bathing
sites.  But MCS warns that the number of beaches failing
minimum legal standards for water quality, or only achieving a basic
pass, is significantly higher compared to this time last year, and 1 in
8 beaches have suffered a serious short-term pollution incident at some
point during the first half of the summer.

Thomas Bell,
MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, said: “The vast majority of Britain’s
beaches have taken the brunt of this summer’s wet weather exceptionally
well. But MCS warned in May that climate change is forecast to bring
summers punctuated by violent storms and flash floods, and today’s
report reflects the pollution pressures that such weather can bring.
Heavy rain will periodically sweep waterborne pollutants such as raw
sewage, organic refuse and farm waste from the land into rivers and the
sea. The problem for swimmers is knowing when that has happened.”
In its ‘mid-season beach health check ‘ – an
analysis of bathing water quality during the first ten weeks of the
summer season, MCS concluded from weekly tests that standards remained
generally good on Britain’s beaches, despite weather across the UK
during May, June and July being the wettest on record. But storm
related pollution has reduced 67 beaches to the basic legal water
quality standard – double the number at this point last summer – and 71
beaches have suffered serious one-off pollution incidents.
Thomas Bell continued: “MCS is calling on
the Government to provide public information on all bathing beaches,
advising swimmers that coastal waters can be temporarily affected by
increased pollution, with a consequent risk to bathers’ health, after
heavy rain. Specific counter pollution measures are needed including
expansion of the sewer system to handle large volumes of storm water,
and the rapid improvement of an estimated 2,000 failing combined sewer
overflows. Increased storm pollution is just one of the many growing
pressures on our seas, and MCS is calling for a Marine Act to provide
better protection and management for our seas and coasts.”
MCS urges swimmers to be aware of possible
pollution after severe rain or flooding, and where pollution occurs to
wait at least 24 hours after the rain stops before entering the sea.

This mid-season beach report is
derived from not fewer than ten water quality samples, tested by
relevant Government agencies, from each of 553 official UK bathing
beaches. The results are published on the MCS Good Beach Guide website
The relevant authorities collected the water quality data from 1st May
to 28th July in England and Wales, and from 21st May to 15th August in
Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Water quality continues to be
sampled until the 30th September.