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30 April 2004

Bathing water gets cleaner, but beaches get dirtier

With the bathing season almost upon us – beginning 1 May – The Environment Agency has announced that a record number of bathing spots across England and Wales meet European requirements for cleanliness – but a survey has found beaches are at their dirtiest for a decade.

More than 80 per cent of bathing spots meet the highest EU standard for water quality, while almost 99 per cent meet the mandatory grade.

Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency said: “These results are good for everyone concerned – the environment, the British Tourist industry and beachgoers.

“However, there is still work to be done,” she said. “We have targeted 19 more places we would like water companies to improve further and we will continue to work with farmers to tackle pollution.”

She added that clean beaches are vital to the British tourist industry, but a survey published today (30 April) by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), Beachwatch 2003, has said Britain’s beaches are dirtier than they have been for 10 years.

In September last year, volunteers cleaned and surveyed 244 beaches round the UK and removed 12,788kg of rubbish.

This was an increase of 29 per cent on 2002 and 99 per cent higher than litter levels in 1994.

A statement in the MCS survey said: “The results from Beachwatch 2003 indicate that there is still one item of litter on almost every 48cm stretch of beach surveyed and the amount of litter on our beaches continues to be a significant problem.

“Even if inputs were to be reduced in the near future, the extensive use of non-biodegradeable plastics over the last two decades could cause an accumulation of plastic items in the environment, as more persistent items are added and larger items break down into smaller fragments.”

Over a third of the rubbish collected – 36.7 per cent – was sourced to beach visitors while fishing litter such a nets, lines and ropes accounted for 14.6 per cent.

Sewage-related debris such as cotton buds, tampons and condoms made up 7.8 per cent of the total litter collected while shipping debris accounted for 2 per cent. Details: www.environment-agency.go.uk


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