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Safe Sea Bathing – Keeping it Clean

For those who like to dip a toe – or a bit more – into Scotland’s waters and enjoy swimming in our seas SEPA is providing bathers with water quality updates.

31 of Scotland’s beaches are included in the daily updates.

Click on this link to access them: Bathing Waters Predictions

Achmelvich beach

Achmelvich, rated excellent for bathing water quality by SEPA

SEPA have also been out testing 86 of Scotland’s beaches for the quality of their bathing waters. Although there has been some improvement the table below shows that 12% were rated as poor.

Bathing waters 2019

From the 1st of June to the 15th of  September SEPA samples the bathing waters at designated sites. The classification system is now stricter than it was in the past and it requires more information to be relayed to the public.

What is the water tested for?

We analyse water samples for Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci and post the results throughout the bathing season. We make observations at bathing waters for cyanobacterial (blue-green algae) blooms, macroalgae (seaweed), marine phytoplankton and other waste and instigate actions if required. SEPA

Escherichia coli (E.coli)

E. coli are a group of organisms found in the intestines of animals and humans and survive for a while in the environment when excreted. Many types of E. coli are not harmful but some such as E. coli 0157, can directly cause illness. The presence of the bacteria indicates that human or animal faeces may be present in bathing water and could contain other potentially harmful organisms that could cause illness.

Occasionally, usually during heavy rainfall, soil containing E. coli bacteria is washed into, rivers, streams, lakes, or groundwater leading to bathing waters, and if found, E. coli bacteria indicates that harmful bugs could be present.

Intestinal Enterococci (IE)

Intestinal Enterococci are found in the intestines of animals and humans although some types are environmental in origin. The presence of the bacteria indicates that human or animal faeces may be present in bathing water alongside other potentially harmful organisms that could cause illness.

Faecal pollutants can come from:

  • human sewage
  • farming activities and livestock (e.g. cattle, sheep)
  • industrial processes
  • surface water urban drainage
  • domestic animals (e.g. dogs)
  • wildlife (e.g. birds)

Samples are only taken on the coastal areas of mainland Scotland but any islanders  going on holiday and used to plunging into the sea might want to check up on where they are planning to go for a swim.

Calum McPhail, SEPA Environmental Quality manager, said:

“Every day SEPA works to protect and enhance Scotland’s stunning environment. It is great news that more bathing waters have met the ‘excellent’ standard than since the new tighter standards first came into force in 2015 and we are also pleased to reveal that fewer bathing waters are rated as ‘poor’.”

Sandyhills

Sandyhills, one of the beaches rated as poor for bathing water quality by SEPA

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

Categories: News

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