Bacteria alert forces UK beach to issue ‘do not swim’ warning for year

Cornwall: Massive sewage spill leaks into secluded beach

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A “Do not swim” warning was issued for a British beach after dangerous bacteria levels were discovered in the water. The Environment Agency (EA) has found faeces at St Mary’s Bay on Romney Marsh in Kent, prompting local authorities to advise residents and holidaymakers against swimming in the area until 2023. The government agency is currently trying to determine what caused the bacterial rise and believes pollution is most likely to blame.

In recent years, the beach’s saltwater quality has declined, with the EA detecting increased levels of intestinal enterococci, which are found in faeces.

The EA is now collaborating with other agencies to determine what caused the increase in bacteria in coastal waters, which are popular with tourists during the summer months.

A spokesperson said: “[We] will continue to work with its partners to fully investigate the reasons for the decline in bathing water quality at St Mary’s Bay.

“All agencies involved are working to identify, remove and reduce the sources of the pollution to ensure that the status of this bathing water improves.

“As part of our investigations, we are monitoring several potential sources of pollution including septic tanks, misconnections and potential sources of diffuse pollution.”

Investigators are looking into possible sources and routes that this pollution could have taken to get into the water.

Between May and September, the watchdog will collect water samples at designated bathing areas such as St Mary’s Bay to monitor water quality. They added that throughout the summer, water samples would be taken from the bay. If the results improve, the beach may reopen.

However, they warned that they would continue to advise the public against bathing at this spot if bacteria levels did not match the required minimums.

According to Environment Agency, 90 percent of sewage monitors at seasides are broken, while some are not installed at all. Due to high levels of toxic waste, dozens of beaches were closed to swimmers this summer. And there could have been many more that were never tested.

Now, hardly a single river in England satisfies safety requirements, and even fewer are considered to be in “excellent health.” Sewage overflowing into waterways is one factor in this, Greenpeace says.

More than 770,000 times or roughly 6 million hours worth of sewage was discharged into the seas and rivers surrounding the UK between 2020 and 2021, according to data from the Environment Agency.

Greenpeace found the sewage crisis is mainly driven by decades of deregulation from successive governments.

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In her role as Environment Secretary, Liz Truss oversaw cuts to environmental funds totalling £235 million. To prevent water firms from dumping more sewage, monitoring services received a £24 million cut. Since such cuts, raw sewage dumps have doubled, Greenpeace reports.

In 2021, the nine water and sewage utilities in England got their worst environmental results in years. The number of severe pollution incidents increased to its highest level since 2013. Six water providers had received ratings of 2 stars or below and required “substantial improvement.”

The Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey has asked all water companies in England to give a “clear plan” outlining how they intend to stop the release of raw sewage into rivers.

She said: “While we have done more about [sewage overflows] than any other government… there is still significant work to do.

“I am now demanding every company to come back to me with a clear plan for what they are doing on every storm overflow, prioritising those near sites where people swim and our most precious habitats.”

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