Scarborough South Bay's water quality in worst 2 per cent in Europe as it's rated 'poor' for third year running

Scarborough's South Bay. PIC: Richard Ponter
Scarborough's South Bay. PIC: Richard Ponter

The water quality at Scarborough's South Bay was in the worst 1.3 per cent of bathing sites in Europe in 2018, a new report from the European Environment Agency has revealed.

The European Bathing Water Quality in 2018 report gives an overview of water quality across the 28 EU member states, plus Albania and Switzerland.

Tourists enjoy the South Bay last summer. PIC: Richard Ponter

Tourists enjoy the South Bay last summer. PIC: Richard Ponter

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Local authorities collect water samples throughout the bathing season and analyse them for two types of bacteria that indicate pollution from either sewage or livestock.

The levels of bacteria detected determines whether the water quality is classified as 'excellent', 'good', 'sufficient' or 'poor'.

Of the 21,831 sites monitored in 2018, only 289 (1.3 per cent) were rated as poor, of which Scarborough South Bay was one.

It was the third year in a row the site received the classification, making it one of only nine UK bathing sites to have been rated poor for the past three years.

According to the report: "Poor quality, polluted water can have impacts on human health, causing stomach upsets and diarrhoea if swallowed."

The authorities are required to prohibit or advise against bathing in water classified as poor, and in cases where bathing water has been rated as such for five consecutive years, bathing must be permanently prohibited.

What is causing it?

In 2016 the Environment Agency carried out DNA profiling on water samples from South Bay to try and identify the sources of pollution.

Analysis showed there were a number of different factors to tackle in order to improve the water quality, and no single factor was responsible.

Factors negatively affecting the water quality include bird faeces, human pollution and dog faeces.

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What are the authorities doing to improve the water quality?

The Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership (YBWP) is made up of local authorities, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water, and Welcome to Yorkshire.

The partnership has worked on a mussels bioaccumulation project, which looks to utilise the cleansing nature of mussels, to improve bathing water on an innovative trial basis.

This year the Environment Agency is investing a further £30,000 in investigating water quality of priority beaches, including South Bay.

Yorkshire Water is working with an external company to look at its data and deciding its next course of action alongside the partnership.

Scarborough Borough Council is enforcing the annual beach dog ban and ensure harbour rules on responsible disposal of toilet waste from vessels are adhered to.

The council is also continuing its educational campaign encouraging people not to feed the gulls and the work of the beach warden in the summer months reinforces this message.

Martin Christmas, environment manager for North Yorkshire with the Environment Agency, said: “The members of the Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership continue to work closely together to understand what impacts on a particular bathing water’s quality and then the partners carry out work to try to improve it.

"The Environment Agency continues to work with industry to ensure standards are maintained and improved including regulating those who have an obligation to ensure their activities do not have a harmful impact on health and the environment.

"Everyone has a part to play in protecting and improving our great bathing waters. If we continue to work together to reduce pollution, we can improve water quality and ensure our bathing waters and coastal communities continue to thrive.”

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What about the rest of the water in town?

Generally the bathing water quality in Yorkshire is good, with 17 of the region's 19 bathing sites rated either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ for the 2019 season.

A Yorkshire Bathing Water Partnership spokesperson said: "Whitby has some of the best bathing water in the country, being classified as ‘excellent’.

"It has met the highest standards since 2005 and has also once again achieved Blue Flag status.

"We’d encourage people to get out and enjoy our beautiful coastline."

Other beaches with bathing water classified as ‘excellent’ are Cayton Bay and Runswick Bay.

Scarborough North Bay, Filey, Sandsend and Robin Hood’s Bay are all rated ‘good’.