SEVEN beaches in the region have failed to meet the expected standard of water cleanliness, Environment Agency tests have revealed.
Although 47 out of 54 bathing waters tested in the North East and Yorkshire did meet the standards set by the European Bathing Water Directive, a higher than average rainfall has been blamed for an overall drop in water quality compared to last year.
Seaham, Saltburn and Sandsend, near Whitby, are among the beaches whose water failed to meet the minimum standards, but popular resorts such as Whitley Bay and Seahouses were among the 25 across the region which achieved the highest results.
Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Saltburn, said the resort’s failure to meet the minimum standard was “a hammer blow”.
“Naturally I am very disappointed to hear this news as it was only in May this year that the Marine Conversation Society listed Saltburn as the most improved beach in the North East,” he said.
“Now we find out that the bathing water has failed to meet strict guidelines it isn’t an understatement to say that it is a hammer blow for the town as the water is used for a variety of activities, including surfing and swimming.”
Mr Blenkisop said he would write to Richard Benyon, the minister responsible for natural environment, water and rural affairs, asking the Government to make sure relevant agencies are equipped to improve the situation.
Cara Charlton of Northumbrian Water said that the company has spent £190million on upgrading its network since 1995.
She said that in times of heavy rainfall, combined sewer overflows are opened which release excess water into the sea and a wetter than usual year has meant these have had a greater impact on water quality.
“Combined sewer overflow systems are a vital part of the sewer network and are designed to help protect properties and land from flooding in times of heavy rainfall,” said Mrs Charlton.
“They are one of the contributing factors to this year’s poorer bathing water results.
“Other factors include run-off from agricultural land and roads.”
She said the long-term picture has shown significant improvements in the region’s bathing water quality and this view is echoed by Dominic Shepherd of the Environment Agency, who said: “Generally speaking, bathing water quality is very good in Yorkshire and the North East, and the long-term trend is that quality is improving.
“During 2011 we saw 100 per cent in the region and we expect this kind of high quality to continue under the normal range of weather conditions.”
Lee Pitcher, treatment manager at Yorkshire Water said the company was “playing its part” in ensuring the future quality of the region’s bathing water.
“Our focus is on delivering our £110 million worth of improvements to local sewerage systems on the coast, but working together to tackle all potential sources of pollution is vitally important,” he said.