Northumbrian Water has invested millions of pounds to improve the bathing water quality in our region over the past 15 years. In 2011 we were the first water company to have more than 90% percent of our beaches passing the most stringent Guideline measure. This meant that our bathing waters were amongst the cleanest in England and Wales. In comparison, in 1998, there were no bathing waters in our region passing the Guideline standard under the current European bathing water directive.
In 2012 however, the bathing season saw prolonged periods of rainfall with occasional intense downpours that overloaded our sewers and drainage systems. The high water table meant that the ground was already charged for much of the year requiring little more rainfall to trigger repeat flooding events and cause increased polluted run-off from rural and urban areas. Travel in our region was disrupted on a number of occasions as roads and railways flooded.
All this rain and flooding had an adverse effect on bathing water quality across our region. As a result, North East bathing water quality was the worst since 2000.
Since 2006 all 34 of our region’s designated beaches have consistently passed the minimum Mandatory standard with the exception of one in 2010 and several more beaches in 2012. Through working in partnership with the Environment Agency and Beach Managers we are investigating how to reduce pollution further from all sources towards improving bathing water quality.
The current bathing water directive will be replaced in 2015 by the revised directive. To find out more about the changes to the Bathing Water Directive click on the PDF below.
Information regarding changes to the Bathing Water Directive.
What is the bathing water season?
The bathing water season starts on the 15th May every year and ends on the 30th of September. The Environment Agency takes a total of 20 sea water samples at each of the bathing water location between 1st May and 30th September to a programme set before the start of the season.
What is a Blue Flag?
The Blue Flag award is an international voluntary scheme that a Beach Manager can apply for provided they meet the criteria set out by Keep Britain Tidy.
To qualify the bathing waters have to meet the tightest bathing water quality standards, but also have to meet provide services such as lifeguards, toilet facilities and safety equipment. They also have to provide information, access for those with disabilities and keep the beach clean.
What are the main changes in the revised bathing water directive?
The main focus of the revised directive is to provide more information to bathers about the quality of seawater. Bathing water profiles provide details of potential sources of pollution and identify the location of the bathing water.
The Environment Agency has issued a profile for each bathing water that can be accessed online at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/bathingwaters. They include maps, potential sources of pollution, sampling points, photos and links to the latest water quality results to help the public make more informed choices about the best locations to visit and enjoy.
The new directive also introduces tighter quality limits to classify each bathing water from 2015. The sampling is based on sample results over four years instead of the sample results from the current year.
In terms of providing better information to the public about bathing water quality, we voluntarily took part in a pilot trial in 2011 at Saltburn to provide real time notifications of instances when sea water quality could have possibly been affected by our assets, such as from Combined Sewer Outfalls. We are planning to provide real time notifications at all 34 our region’s designated bathing waters by the start of the 2013 bathing water season.
Signs are to be installed by beach managers (such as your Local Authority) at all designated bathing waters to inform you about current bathing water quality and any potential pollution sources. There will also be temporary information signs used after incidents have occurred that may affect bathing water quality for a prolonged period.
We continue to investigate how we can improve bathing water quality still further and are committed to playing our part in contributing to all our region’s 34 bathing waters achieving the Excellent classification in the future.
What is Ultraviolet disinfection?
UV disinfection is an additional treatment employed at the end of a secondary sewage treatment works to reduce the number of bacteria remaining in the final effluent. NWL has 6 coastal sites with UV systems: Seaton Carew has been in operating since 31 March 2001 and the other five (Bran Sands, Howdon, Billingham, Marske and Hendon) since 31 March 2002. The Marske UV system is operated year round, Howdon from 1 April to 31 October and the four remaining during the bathing water sampling period (1 May to 30 September).
The UV irradiation reaches the microorganisms and impacts directly on their DNA. By changing the DNA the cell division of the microorganism is interrupted, so it can no longer reproduce itself and thus loses its pathogenic effect. With UV technology it is possible to destroy more than 99.99% of all pathogens within seconds, without addition of chemicals or harmful side effects; this is highly efficient and reliable. The sewage treatment works and UV system is designed to reduce the number of bacteria at the local Bathing Water(s) to a defined level.
The light necessary for UV disinfection is generated in special UV lamps and each lamp is enclosed in a watertight tube made of quartz glass which allows the UV light to pass through. There are approximately 6,000 lamps in total installed in our six plants. They are positioned parallel to the flow and the final effluent from the sewage treatment works is irradiated by the UV light as it passes between them. Limits are set by the Environment Agency on the suspended solids in the final effluent to ensure that the UV irradiation can reach the bacteria.
What is a CSO, Sewerage System or Sewage Treatment Works?
Further information regarding CSOs, Sewerage Systems or Sewage Treatment Works can be found within the ′Sewerage′ section of our website.