Seaton bathing water defended as “clean and safe”

Council says “fail” classification gives wrong impression of beach’s cleanliness

COUNCIL chiefs has defended the quality of Seaton’s bathing water.

They say its usually crystal clear and no one has been reported getting sick by swimming there.

East Devon District Council moved to defend the holiday beach after the Marine Conservation Society branded it a health hazard.

They say it failed to meet minimum European cleanliness standards last year.

But a spokesman for the council said the “fail” classification resulted from just two unsatisfactory tests. He said land run off during extreme wet weather was the likely cause.

He said: “It is unfortunate that the Bathing Water Directive uses just 20 individual samples taken once per week throughout the bathing season. “The Directive dictates that a “poor” test result of water samples from just two of these days in any year should determine the overall annual description of the waters as a “fail”, regardless of the water quality on the remaining 138 days and the fact that weekly test results for the remaining 18 weeks were good or excellent.

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“We have had no incidents of ill-health reported to us which could have been linked to poor water quality at any of our bathing waters.”

He added: “The bathing waters at Seaton almost always meet the excellent standard as described by the Environment Agency.

“Of the six samples taken so far in 2011, five have been excellent and one good. Neither the excellent nor good classifications suggest a risk to health.

“Only four of the 66 samples taken in the last three years have been classified as poor, which means they failed to meet the mandatory standard as prescribed in the EC Bathing Water Directive.

“All of our beaches show a similar pattern, including Beer beach at which two of the 66 samples were classified as poor, seven good and 57 excellent.

“At East Devon we take great pride in the cleanliness of our beaches and bathing waters – the sea and River Axe Estuary at Seaton is usually bright blue and crystal clear and many people swim in our waters all year round. Results show that there has been a significant year on year improvement in the river water quality.

“We always follow up any of the isolated failures, and in the last three years, all four have corresponded with extreme wet weather conditions. Poorer water quality may prevail for up to 24 hours after heavy rainfall and it is unlikely that swimmers will be in the sea during these conditions. All sea water will from time to time receive run-off from the land, particularly during periods of severe or prolonged wet weather. East Devon is a predominantly agricultural area and the Environment Agency and South West Water continue to work hard with local landowners to reduce incidents of direct run-off into rivers and estuaries.

“We do have warning signs which can be placed on the beaches advising against swimming if we are able to predict that, because of extreme weather conditions, the bathing water is unlikely to meet the area’s usual high standards.”