Britain’s dirty beaches: UK bathing water ranked worst in EU –

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The UK has slipped down the rankings significantly since last year, when its ratings were roughly middle of the pack out of EU nations.

Bathing water has not declined year-on-year, however, with the slump instead reflecting the UK for the first time being judged against the same tough new standards as the rest of the EU.

The UK was one of the last member states to introduce the EU’s new bathing water ratings system, under which the standards for ‘sufficient’ and ‘excellent’ bathing water are roughly twice as stringent as the old standards.

In 2014, the UK effectively had an artificially high ranking due to using more lenient standards than most other countries.

Beaches that failed under the new system have been forced to put up signs advising against swimming.

The beaches include Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, where a traditional sea swimming race has had to be cancelled in light of the new rankings – despite the water being cleaner than ever.

Others to fail included Walpole Bay in Margate, and Silloth in Cumbria.

A spokesman for the Marine Conservation Society warned that Britain must invest in improving water quality to ensure that it did not regain its reputation as the “Dirty man of Europe”, which was based on the poor state of its seawaters in the 1970s and 1980s.

He said that while there had been “enormous improvements” since then, “we cannot rest on laurels, and need to fix problems at the 31 sites listed”.

“Although the majority of our bathing waters have achieved Excellent or Good results, it is disappointing that not all beaches have managed to reach the new minimum Sufficient standard,” he said.

“The implication for these sites is that bathers will be advised against bathing through signage on these beaches. If a beach fails for five consecutive years, this advice will become permanent.”

A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for bathing waters in England, said: “Our bathing waters are cleaner than ever, with 97 per cent meeting new, tougher standards.

“But we’re not complacent and we’re continuing to work with water companies, local authorities and communities to drive up standards on beaches and lakes across England.”

Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “European bathing water is at 96 per cent acceptable and 84 per cent excellent standards. That is the result of 40 years investing in water and waste water infrastructure.

“It is a sign of EU legislation working well. And it is a perfect testimony to the fact that a highly evolved economic area such as ours can produce equally high environmental standards.”

Britain’s dirty beaches: UK bathing water ranked worst in EU –