Scottish Daily Mail

Don’t swim here!

EU warnings to be posted at 17 beaches in Scotland

- By Sean Poulter and Jenny Kane

‘DO not swim’ warnings are to be erected at some of Scotland’s best loved beaches for the first time this summer under EU health rules.

The signs are a public protection measure and are required by law at 17 beaches in Scotland and ten south of the Border.

Locations include Portobello Beach (West) near Edinburgh, which is usually swarming with visitors on a sunny day, and Nairn Central and East on the Moray Firth, famous for its dolphins.

Also on the list are West Coast beaches which attract thousands of tourists every year, including Prestwick and Heads of Ayr, both in Ayrshire.

On the list of English beaches are parts of Clacton, Margate, East Looe, in Cornwall, Ilfracombe, Devon, and Burnham, Somerset.

The signs – which will be in place by June 1 in Scotland – carry the image of a swimmer with a diagonal red line and the words: ‘Advise against bathing’.

The water quality at these beaches has been measured as ‘poor’ over a four-year period, meaning they are likely to contain risky levels of bugs such as E.coli and intestinal enterococc­i. These can cause stomach upsets, eye infections and, in rare cases, more severe illnesses.

This may be due to human sewage or because of animal waste and other pollutants being washed into rivers and the sea by heavy rain.

The warning signs do not amount to a legal ban on swimming or paddling, and people cannot be stopped from going in to the water.

However, the EU guidelines means parents and children are advised to stay out of the sea.

It is the first time that such health warning signs have been erected on British beaches.

Iain Fairweathe­r, vice-chairman of the website Visit Nairn, had no idea a sign was due to be put up on a beach just two minutes’ walk from his house.

He said: ‘One of the expectabea­ches Stick to sunbathing: Sandyhills beach on the Solway Firth is among those named for ‘poor’ water quality tions for having a family beach holiday is to swim. That’s going to have an impact on the attractive­ness of Nairn as a destinatio­n if that is the case.

‘I can’t argue against a legal ruling, but I think people will struggle to understand why it is unsafe. I would like to see the criteria for which they judge a

‘Signs will be in place by June 1’

beach unsafe – it may be more stringent controls are being applied now.’

The signs are part of an EU Bathing Water Directive and testing carried out by experts at the Scottish Environmen­t Protectioi­n Agency.

Bathing waters are graded in terms of excellent, good, sufficient or poor, according to the tough new EU guidelines. No in Wales and Northern Ireland scored poor in terms of bathing water quality.

The death of a six-year-old, Caroline Wakefield, from polio – contracted after swimming in the sewage-contaminat­ed sea off Gosport in Hampshire in 1957 – first raised the profile of bathing water pollution.

It led to changes in monitoring bathing water cleanlines­s culminatin­g in the European Bathing Water Directive, which was introduced in 1976.

Rachel Wyatt, water quality programme manager for the Marine Conservati­on Society, said: ‘Before the directive was introduced, many UK beaches were impacted by continuous untreated sewage discharges – we were literally swimming in poo.

‘In 1988 just over a third of those beaches monitored failed to meet even the minimum standard.’

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