Bathing water quality results announced 

10:39am - 19 January 2022
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Newly published data shows a mixed picture for bathing water quality assessments in North Somerset.

According to the latest DEFRA classification, which were last updated in 2019, bathing water quality has improved at Uphill, remains good at Clevedon and adequate at Sand Bay.

However, results unfortunately show a deterioration in readings taken from Weston’s main beach in 2021, meaning bathing water quality is sadly below the level needed for a sufficient rating.

North Somerset Council, the Environment Agency and Wessex Water are working together to find and tackle the cause of poor samples and continue to take action to improve water quality. 

North Somerset Council’s executive member for Neighbourhoods and Community Services, Cllr Mike Solomon, said: “It is really pleasing to see that bathing water around North Somerset is generally classified as meeting the stringent standards. However, we want all our areas to reach the highest possible standards and so it’s very disappointing that Weston’s main bathing water rating has deteriorated. Weston’s main beach will remain a popular destination and we’ll continue to do everything possible to ensure our visitors enjoy our beach, seafront and bathing waters.

“Everyone who lives in or visits our coastal areas can help do their bit to improve water quality. This includes particularly disposing of litter properly, cleaning up after their dog and not flushing inappropriate items down the loo.” 

Cllr Mike Bell, executive member responsible for public health, said: “There are many reasons why Weston’s results may have dipped this year, including more visitors than usual over the summer, more business happening at concessionary outlets, and a larger than usual bird population, which may have been attracted by food left in higher levels of litter. 

“Our environmental teams will be looking at all the factors that can impact water quality and working with partners to take action to deliver improvements. However, we cannot do this on our own and have been lobbying the government to improve protection of our coastline. As a nation we must do more to protect our rivers, seas and oceans and stop unfiltered industrial or domestic pollutants from reaching our coastline.” 

Bathing water results are usually announced annually and based on a variety of samples taken by the Environment Agency in the summer season. Readings can also vary due to weather, pollution from agricultural and urban sources and storm water overflows. 

North Somerset Council’s Director of Public Health, Matt Lenny, said: “People who use the beach may feel worried about these results. But there are no pass/fail standards for individual water samples, instead the classification is based on a statistical measure of all samples. A sample tells us the quality of the water at that specific time, but water can change even over the course of one day.

"We are looking to get active signage which uses a prediction system to let swimmers know if there is the potential for lower water quality in real time. We want to make sure beach goers are well informed so they can choose how best to enjoy their time on our coastline.”

Jim Flory, Area Environment Manager at the Environment Agency said: “Weston’s bathing water quality is influenced by many factors, its location in a large estuary, and the potential for agricultural run-off from farms and businesses along the River Axe and around Weston. 

“We are working closely with North Somerset Council to identify potential issues and take action where it is needed.”

Misconnections, where drains send dirty water from toilets, showers and dishwashers into the wrong pipes and into rivers and the sea, are also a problem. Residents are encouraged to check their own homes for potential misconnections. Advice on how can be found online at www.connectright.org.uk 

In recent years Wessex Water has invested millions of pounds to make sure sewage received from homes and businesses in the area is treated to a high standard using state of the art UV treatment to kill bacteria, before being safely returned into the environment. It has also renewed the main sewer around Marine Parade to reduce risks of deterioration and leakage which could impact water quality.

The company operates two storm overflows in the area – used to protect properties from flooding during extreme rainfall events – which together operated three times during the bathing water season and are not thought to have influenced water quality sampling, which happens during May to September.

Ruth Barden, Director of Environmental Solutions for Wessex Water, said: “We recognise that bathing water quality at Weston is a complex issue with a large number of often quite small contributing sources within the wider urban and rural area. We have invested heavily to ensure bathing water isn’t affected by our sewage treatment processes, so our focus has now been on working with the council and Environment Agency to support investigative work looking into other sources of potential pollution outside of our control.

“This includes checking for misconnections of foul sewage from private properties into the surface water system, which discharges straight into the sea. 

“We have also worked closely with North Somerset Council and the Environment Agency over the summer to investigate other potential sources of pollution such as local cafés and food outlets and further potential misconnections within the surface water network. These findings have been reported back to the relevant organisations or individuals for rectification.”

North Somerset residents and visitors are encouraged to help the effort to improve Weston’s bathing water quality scores. They should: 

  • Always put litter in the bin or take it away to dispose of at home 
  • Only take dogs to areas where they are allowed and always pick up after them 
  • Check drains aren’t misconnected 
  • Use a WaterSafe accredited plumber
  • Never flush wet wipes, cotton buds and sanitary items 
  • Never pour fats, oils and grease down drains.