One in four Scottish beaches may pose health risk

Children enjoy Portobello Beach in Edinburgh ' but it may be among several in Scotland to be classified as 'poor'. Picture: Callum Bennetts
Children enjoy Portobello Beach in Edinburgh ' but it may be among several in Scotland to be classified as 'poor'. Picture: Callum Bennetts
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ONE in four Scottish beaches used by swimmers are likely to be rated as “poor” due to toxic sewage and animal waste.

Bacteria and viruses in the water at tourist beaches including Portobello in Edinburgh could pose serious risks to the health of anyone paddling, swimming or surfing.

The beach at Girvan, South Ayrshire. Picture: Todor Radic

The beach at Girvan, South Ayrshire. Picture: Todor Radic

A Sunday newspaper yesterday reported that The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has given initial estimates that 21 bathing waters will be classed as “poor” under new European safety standards.

The list includes seven Seaside Award winners including East Beach at Dunbar in East Lothian.

Others include Girvan in South Ayrshire, West Beach in Edinburgh’s Portobello, East Beach in Lossiemouth, Moray, and Fisherrow Sands in Musselburgh, East Lothian.

This is the first year that new European rules on bathing water standards come fully into force since they were introduced in 2006.

Under the laws, Scotland’s 84 officially designated bathing waters must be tested every four years for human and animal waste, e-Coli and intestinal bacteria.

Exposure can cause infections in ears, nose throat and stomach and in some cases can be fatal.

Calum McPhail, Sepa’s environmental quality manager, is reported as saying: “The predicted classifications were only [classified as] ‘initial estimates’.

“We expect further improvement this year, but some bathing waters are still likely to reach the ‘sufficient’ classification.”

Andy Cummins, of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “The tougher standards have been introduced to offer the public better protection against a wide array of significant health risks.

“Those beaches that fail urgently need to adopt new actions and measures to ensure public water quality is safe.”

A spokesman for Keep Scotland Beautiful said that water quality was only one of the criteria used by the jury in the Seaside Awards.

It is thought that most beaches will be classified as excellent, good or sufficient, and that 22 will be rated “excellent”, with very low contamination.

They include Broad Sands at North Berwick in East Lothian, Broughty Ferry in Dundee, Gullane bents in East Lothian, and Achmelvich at Lochinver in the Highlands.