Three popular beaches less than an hour’s drive from Bristol have been branded unsafe to swim in after being named some of the most polluted in the UK.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFR) has deemed the bathing water quality at two Weston-super-Mare beaches and another at Burnham-on-Sea to be poor with harmful levels of bacteria. Weston-super-Mare’s Main beach, upon which the Grand Pier sits, and Sandy Bay are ranked as the 11th and 10th most polluted beaches while Burnham-on-Sea’s Jetty North is also inside the top 10, at number 9.
DEFR cites sewage being pumped into the area’s water as a factor in the deteriorating bathing quality. But, this is not the only factor at play according to the environmental agency. Following data sampling at each beach in 2022, DEFR has submitted investigation statements on each pollution hotspot, found below.
There is no investigation statement for Burnham-on-Sea’s main beach, Jetty North, as it was deemed unfit for bathing in 2019.
Weston Main Beach
Seagulls are a main factor in the deterioration of water quality at the town’s main beach, which faces the promenade and features The Grand Pier.
In 2021 and 2022, DEFRA analysed water samples taken from the bathing and nearby areas as part of a bid to understand the ‘pollution problems’. It ‘indicated that seagulls are a significant source of poor bathing water quality’. Another factor was sewage coming into the water. The Environment Agency is now working with Wessex Water to review the spilling of sewage into the water. It’s hoped the work will improve the bathing water quality to secure a ‘good class’.
The latest data reading scored the water quality as ‘Poor’.
Weston Sand Bay
An investigation is still underway to determine the main reasons for the deterioration in bathing water quality at Weston Sand Bay.
DNA analysis of our bathing water samples has shown that contamination at the beach is derived from a combination of sources including sewage, agriculture, dogs and seabirds.
DEFRA has cited ‘streams that discharge to the east of Sand Point’ which have been studied for sources of contamination. The department is also working with Wessex Water to determine how improvements can be made to raise the water quality above the latest score: Poor.