Seaside awards ‘painting over dirty reality’
A CAMPAIGN group that runs sewage alerts at 200 British beaches has accused the Scottish Government’s anti-litter charity of painting a rosy picture of beaches that are badly polluted.
• Scottish Government criticised for giving awards to beaches about to fail new pollution limits
• By 2016, 20 beaches will fail pollution limits according to Sepa
The beach watchdog claims that Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) gave its “seaside awards” to five bathing beaches, praising cleanliness and safety despite warnings that they are poised to fail new pollution limits.
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) works with four private water companies in England and Wales to provide instant warnings to its members on sewage spills in coastal areas, covering 200 British beaches.
Now it has raised a red flag over Scottish bathing areas. From South Beach in Ayr, to Cruden Bay in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, the water quality of 20 beaches has been given a “poor” rating, the lowest, by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
After testing, Sepa has concluded that all 20 areas will fail new pollution limits due to take force in 2016. But five of the beaches were given glowing “seaside awards” last week despite these findings, the surfers’ group says.
“There is a discrepancy between the awards and the water quality being achieved at the beaches,” said SAS director Hugo Tagholm. “It is painting a rosier picture, than is reality.
“Obviously, these sorts of awards inspire public confidence in water quality, and if some of these spots are only achieving the bare legal minimum on pollution, it doesn’t tally with an awards scheme promoting excellence in the same field.”
SAS monitors water companies’ alerts on sewage levels. When a sewage overflow, typically caused by heavy rain, sends pollution levels soaring, SAS sends instant text messages to members round the country.
The number of beaches SAS covers has grown to 200 this year though it has yet to start working with Scottish Water, the body that provides sewage services across Scotland.
SAS said the awards, given for “high standards of cleanliness, safety, and water quality” risked becoming “empty and meaningless”.
The new Sepa pollution limits will replace measures that were more than three decades old. But KSB’s chief executive, Derek Robertson, told a Sunday newspaper that water quality was only one measure for its awards.
“KSB award beaches cannot be expected to meet bathing water quality standards which do not come into force for four years,” he said.
They were made on the basis of “current European Union bathing water rules” he said. The organisation would work with Sepa to ensure its awards would be “fit for purpose” in 2016.