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Clean water campaigners Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are frustrated with yet another year’s shocking bathing water results for Scotland.


During the course of the 2010 Scottish bathing season 13 beaches recorded single sample failures with 4 beaches failing outright to reach bathing water standards that are 34 years old and that will soon be superseded by more stringent standards. A double whammy of bad news for Scottish water users sees Scottish Water turn off their tertiary sewage treatment at Pease Bay, increasing the health risk for surfing at one of Scotland’s most popular winter surfing beaches.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are one of the major sources of pollution, responsible for the continued failures of Scottish Bathing Waters. CSOs discharge raw sewage and storm-water during periods of heavy rain. CSOs operate as an emergency escape route when rainwater overloads our already oversubscribed sewerage system. SEPA and Scottish Water often blame the weather, however if SAS’s consistent calls for increased investment from Scottish Water, were to be combined with the adoption of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) by Scottish planners and a more conscientious use of water by the public, the current shameful use and abuse of CSOs could be reduced.

During the bathing season in Scotland, (from 01st of June until 15th of September) the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) tests the water quality at bathing water sites once a week. A 100ml sample is tested

for indicators of human sewage and if present the beach fails the 1976 EU Bathing Water Directive standards. This woeful and outdated standard represents a 1 in 7 chance of contracting Gastro Enteritis. The 13 beaches that had single sample failures are; Saltcoats, North Berwick (Milsey Bay), Girvan, Rockcliffe, Carrick, Nairn (East), Thurso, Prestwick, Luss, Sandyhills, Lossiemouth (East), Dhoon Bay and Broughty Ferry. If a beach has more than 1 failed sample the beach fails for the season. The 4 Scottish beaches that failed are; Heads of Ayr, Ayr South Beach and Irvine in Ayrshire. And Elie (Harbour and Earlsferry) in Fife.

When you add the fact that 23 samples were granted abnormal weather waivers on six separate dates (24 May; 15 June; 21 June; 22 June; 23 June; 26 August), this does not bode well for the revised EU Bathing Water Directive (2006) that comes into force in 2015. The revised directive has more stringent water quality standards and a requirement for improved public information. This can result in permanent signage at Scottish beaches warning against bathing due to dangerous water quality.

SAS Campaign Director, Andy Cummins says: “Another disappointing bathing season for Scotland leaves me deeply concerned. We are still struggling to meet outdated and woefully inadequate standards after 34 years. Scottish Water urgently needs to invest in and update antiquated sewerage system before more and more beaches fail.”

And a double whammy of terrible news for Scottish surfers and waveriders as Scottish Water turn off their tertiary treatment today at Pease Bay, as the bathing season finishes. By turning off tertiary treatment the effluent discharged has a dramatically increased bacterial load. This results in an increased risk to surfers and waveriders health from illnesses and infections like; Ecoli, Hepatitis A, Gastro Enteritis and much more.

SAS’s Edinburgh Rep Alasdair Steele says: “The best surf in Scotland, especially on the East coast occurs outside the bathing season. Surfers are more at risk than the average bather because we are immersing in and ingesting the water when we wipe out. In England and Wales, water companies are required to keep treated their sewage to a high standard all year round when people use the sea. We believe Scottish surfers deserve the same levels of protection.”

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