Bathing water quality event set for Plymouth

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The quality of the bathing water at Plymouth will be discussed at a community engagement event which will be part of the Blue Mile weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

The Environment Agency will be at the event in the Barbican on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September with other partner organisations including Plymouth City Council, South West Water, Marine Biology Association, Marine Conservation Society, Mount Batten and the National Aquarium.

Everyone is invited to come along and learn more about their local bathing waters. There will also be a host of activities on the various stands including a quiz for families and badge making.

The Agency will also be at the National Aquarium’s school week from 16-20 September, talking to school children about water quality and sources of pollution.

The fund-raising Ecover Blue Mile weekend, will see hundreds of people take to the water and feature a series of stands from organisations throughout the South West.

With only two years to go until bathing waters need to meet much tougher standards under the new European Bathing Water Directive, the Environment Agency is organising a series of community events to highlight how everyone has a part to play in improving bathing water quality. The Plymouth event is the latest in this series.

The quality of our bathing waters and beaches is one of the attractions that bring in twenty three million tourists to the South West each year and therefore extremely important to the local economy.

There are 193 beaches in the South West monitored during the bathing water season and, of these, approximately 20 might fall short of these new tougher standards.

The Environment Agency is in the process of implementing the revised Bathing Water Directive, which will introduce higher standards from 2015.

The new directive will have four classification categories: Excellent (approximately twice as stringent as the current Guideline standard); Good (similar to the current Guideline); Sufficient (approximately twice as stringent as the current Mandatory standard) and Poor, for waters which do not comply with the Directive’s standards.

The Environment Agency welcomes the opportunity to work with other communities whose bathing waters have been identified as possibly not meeting the new standards.

‘The event at Plymouth will hopefully help people understand the new - and much tougher standards - under the new European Bathing Water Directive. Bathing water quality across the whole of the South West is extremely high but more needs to be done by water companies, businesses, farmers, local authorities and communities to help at risk bathing waters pass the new standards,’ said Jon Snowden for the Environment Agency.

‘The event will inform people about how we sample bathing waters, explain the possible sources of pollution and solutions, and the actions we would like people to take.’
The Environment Agency has been investigating more than 200 incidents of sewage going into surface drains rather than sewers since January in the Plym Estuary area. The Agency, South West Water and Plymouth City Council have been investigating the problem as part of the Plymouth Urban Diffuse Pollution Project by using cameras, fluorescent dye and echo testing at sewage outfalls and under manhole covers.

Problems ranged from washing machines that have been wrongly plumbed in, to commercial businesses or schools discharging sewage into streams and rivers.

‘This investigation work provides an excellent opportunity for us to identify, trace and stop pollution from a variety of sources. Misconnections are often difficult to pinpoint and can remain hidden for years,’ added Jon Snowden.

‘Once a misconnection is discovered we work with other agencies including water companies, local authorities, businesses and private homeowners to put it right. Each solved misconnection helps improve water quality in our rivers and streams as well as bathing waters and is great news for the environment.’

Cabinet member for the Environment, Councillor Brian Vincent, added: ‘This event shows illustrates just how important the waters around our city are. It is also an opportunity to remind people that the Council, the Environment Agency and South West water are, bit by bit and pipe by pipe, working to stop pollution and sewage from going into our water.

‘Water is a valuable commodity and by working together to tackle something as small as a misconnected pipe, we will be able to make a difference to the quality of our bathing water.’

View the South West Bathing Water Needs You video on You Tube at the following link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XaFohoFB38

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