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Beaches: EU Law

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 22 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reasons each of the 20 coastal bathing sites which did not meet minimum bathing water standards in summer 2007 did not meet those standards; and if he will make a statement. (166553)

My Department holds information on nine of the 20 bathing waters in the UK which failed to meet the minimum standards during the 2007 bathing season.

The reasons for failure at these nine sites are set out in the following table. These were mainly a combination of sewage pollution and/or diffuse water pollution from agriculture.

In addition, eight of these nine failures were affected by exceptionally heavy or persistent rainfall, as this summer was the wettest since records began.

Region

Bathing Water

Main reason(s) for failure

Affected by rainfall

North East

Runswick Bay

Agricultural and sewage pollution

Yes

Sandsend

Agricultural pollution

Yes

Staithes

Agricultural pollution

Yes

North West

Aldingham

Sewage pollution

Yes

Morecambe South

Agricultural pollution

Yes

St. Annes

Agricultural and sewage pollution

Yes

South West

Bude Summerleaze

Agricultural and sewage pollution

No

Instow

Agricultural pollution

Yes

Mothecombe

Agricultural and sewage pollution

Yes

Information on bathing water failures in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is held by the relevant devolved administrations.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) for what reasons the requirement to test bathing water once every fortnight has been changed to once every month in the draft Bathing Water Regulations 2008; and if he will make a statement; (166632)

(2) what he estimates the effect on his Department's expenditure will be of testing bathing water once a month instead of once a fortnight; and if he will make a statement.

The revised Bathing Water Directive (rBWD) requires, as a minimum, that no fewer than four bathing water samples are taken per bathing water per season. These requirements are reflected in the draft transposing regulations for England and Wales, which were recently issued as part of a Government consultation on the implementation of the rBWD.

As discussed in the consultation document, the Environment Agency is currently investigating the risks associated with changes to its current monitoring programme (from 20 samples per bathing water) to reflect the reduced frequency of sampling allowed by the rBWD.

My Department and the Welsh Assembly Government are awaiting the outcome of the Environment Agency's investigations before making any decisions about future sampling frequency. Initial indications are that a reduction in sampling frequency may be limited.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what budget has been allocated for the monitoring and testing of beaches in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. (166633)

The Environment Agency is the competent authority in England and Wales for monitoring and testing water quality at bathing waters designated under the European Bathing Waters Directive.

In 1997, the Agency routinely tested water quality at 447 sites. This had increased to 494 sites by 2007. The Environment Agency takes approximately 20 water samples per site every year during the bathing season (from 15 May to 30 September).

Since 1997, the money that has been spent on monitoring and testing beaches has increased in line with the number of bathing waters identified under this legislation.

The number and cost of bathing waters monitoring from 1997 - 2007 is set out in the following table:

Number of bathing waters

Cost (£000)

1997

447

369

1998

466

385

1999

470

388

2000

480

396

2001

481

397

2002

482

398

2003

489

404

2004

491

406

2005

494

408

2006

493

408

2007

494

408

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for what reason he proposes to amend the Bathing Water Regulations 2007. (166635)

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the Bathing Water (Classification) Regulations 1991, which transposed the current Bathing Water Directive (cBWD), 76/160/EEC.

A revised Bathing Water Directive (rBWD), 2006/7/EC, which came into force in March 2006, updates and simplifies the cBWD.

New legislation (the Bathing Water Regulations 2008, which is currently the subject of a public consultation) is required to transpose the rBWD into UK law, and revoke the 1991 regulations at the same time.