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Bathing water quality in England this season showed further improvements over last year's record best, environment ...
Bathing water quality in England this season showed further improvements over last year's record best, environment minister Michael Meacher has said. UK bathing water quality results were also the best ever.

Of the 535 identified UK coastal bathing waters sampled this year, 91% passed the EC mandatory coliform bacteria standards compared with 89% in 1998 and the previous highest total of 90% in 1996.

Results from samples taken by the Environment Agency for bathing waters in England showed:

- a record number of coastal bathing waters (353 out of 391, or 90%)

met the directive's coliform standards;

- of the 38 waters which failed, 23 did so by only a single sample;

- compliance in the north-east (at 95%) was much better than in 1998

(84%) but, despite an improvement (from 62% to 68%), the

north-west still remains poor, particularly along the Fylde Coast;

- compliance in the Thames and south-west regions was the same as

last year but Anglian had two failures compared with none in 1998

and Southern had five failures compared with two in 1998.

The government has announced that it wants to see substantial

additional investment to increase mandatory compliance in England and

Wales to 94% in 2000 and to 97% by 2005, together with a significant

increase in guideline compliance to enable more resorts to get Blue

Flag status.


The main results for the UK are summarised below, together with

details of the results for each bathing water in England. This

information will be placed in the libraries of the House.

Details of the results for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are

published by the Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales

and the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland, respectively. A report with more detailed results for the UK will be available around the turn of the year.

The results for 1999 in other member states will be published by the

commission in May. In 1998, the UK was in 11th position on mandatory

coliform standards, above Finland (84%) and Sweden (85%).

Compliance with the bathing water directive has been assessed on the

basis of the parameters 'total coliforms' and 'faecal coliforms'.

These are indicators of contamination from sewage and other sources

and the Directive sets mandatory values to be achieved by 95 per cent

of samples (19 of the 20 samples taken during the bathing season in

the UK).

These parameters are the usual basis for compliance assessment in the EC and have been used by the EC Commission to rank member states' performance. The number of samples (normally out of 20) failing to meet the directive's standard for faecal coliform bacteria is shown for each failed bathing water.

In addition to total and faecal coliforms, the commission takes into

account, when assessing mandatory compliance, 3 other parameters -

mineral oils, surface-active substances and phenols. More detailed

results covering these and other parameters of the directive will be

made available around the turn of the year.

The directive also sets tighter 'guideline' standards which member

states shall, within the terms of the directive, 'endeavour to

observe'. Compliance with the EC Directive's 'guideline' standard is

assessed by the commission in accordance with the tighter limits for

total and faecal coliforms. Blue Flag quality water is assessed,

additionally, on the directive's guideline limit for faecal


Under the directive, failing bathing water samples may be disregarded

where they are the result of 'floods.........or abnormal weather

conditions'. The UK applies a criterion of a one in five year event

here. These abnormal weather waivers, where they affect mandatory and

guideline compliance, have been applied on specific occasions at the

small number of bathing waters indicated in the list.

The results for inland bathing waters are shown separately. There were no new inland waters identified in England in 1999 but there are now 2 in Scotland, making a total of 11 in the UK.

The government has announced the environmental improvements they want

the water industry in England and Wales to achieve between 2000 and


Secondary treatment will be the minimum requirement for all coastal

sewage discharges serving populations of 2,000 or more and there will

be even higher levels of treatment where this is needed to protect

bathing or shellfish waters.

Work on improving unsatisfactory storm overflow pipes will be

speeded-up. Over 80% of them will be dealt with in the period


Bathing water standards will be significantly improved.

Mandatory compliance should increase to 97% and Guideline compliance

(on the measure necessary to achieve Blue Flag status) to around 60%.

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