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Bathing waters

Bathing waters

Thirty-three of the region’s 34 bathing waters in 2016 have either an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ water quality status, with every one of the North East’s coastal sites passing the European standards.

Despite the increase from 30 bathing waters meeting these standards in 2015, Northumbrian Water, which has invested £1bn over 20 years in enhancing the quality of water on the region’s coastline, says the results do not mean there is cause for complacency.

Twenty-seven of the North East bathing waters have met the excellent standard, six are classified as good, one as sufficient and none as poor. This compares with 19 excellent, 11 good, three sufficient and one poor in 2015.

Compliance is based on the current and previous three years of sample data (80 samples per beach, from 2013 to 2016 inclusive). These samples are taken by the Environment Agency between May and September each year to assess the bathing waters against the strict regulations. (4 years overall at 20 samples per year).

Northumbrian Water’s Wastewater Director, Richard Warneford, said: “Our two decades of investment has yielded significant benefits, and we are confident that by maintaining focus upon the North East coastline we can continue to drive improvements and make the region’s coast a beacon for excellent bathing water.

“Investment in areas such as Seaham and Seaham Hall, where we have implemented improved storm water storage facilities (£1.1m), and Saltburn, with a £4.5m system upgrade, has paid off and this is reflected in the results, with Seaham and Seaham Hall moving from both being ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ and ‘good’, respectively, and Saltburn rising from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’.

“All of this work helps to make our region’s beaches a fantastic place to visit, with high quality bathing water that adds to the experience of a day on the North East coast.

“There is more work like this to be done and we refuse to take this year′s excellent results as an excuse to be complacent. Great bathing water relies on constant attention to detail and a willingness to continue looking for new ways to protect and improve our environment.

“Back in 2000, only four North East bathing waters achieved the standards that were in place at the time, so today shows a massive improvement that we and all of our partners can be proud of. We place the environment at the heart of what we do and are extremely proud of the investment and partnership working that we carry out to make our beaches a great place to visit.

Sir James Bevan Chief Executive of the Environment Agency said: “Water quality at beaches has improved again this year, with 27 in the North East meeting the highest rating of Excellent.

“The Environment Agency has led successful work to protect people, tourism and the environment. We will continue to ensure bathing waters are maintained and improved further, so we need partners and the public to work with us to reduce pollution.

“We encourage all beach-goers to check water quality advice; this is available at every bathing beach and on the Bathing Water Data Explorer website.”

North East bathing waters which have achieved the ‘excellent’ standard are Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses North, Beadnell, Low Newton, Warkworth, Amble Links, Druridge Bay North, Druridge Bay South, Newbiggin North, Newbiggin South, Blyth South, Seaton Sluice, Whitley Bay, Tynemouth Longsands North, Tynemouth Longsands South, Tynemouth King Edwards Bay, South Shields, Seaburn (Whitburn North), Roker (Whitburn South), Seaham, Crimdon, Seaton Carew (Centre), Seaton Carew (North Gare), Redcar Lifeboat Station, Redcar Stray, Marske Sands, and Saltburn.

Those that have achieved the ‘good’ standard are Tynemouth Cullercoats, Marsden, Seaham Hall, Seaton Carew (North), Redcar Coatham, and Redcar Granville. Spittal is now rated as ‘sufficient’, rising from ‘poor’, meaning all 34 of the region’s bathing waters pass the European standards.

Northumbrian Water is encouraging their customers to also help to look after the region’s bathing waters by only flushing toilet paper, pee and poo down the loo and by not putting grease and fat down drains. This will help to prevent blockages and potential pollution.

Latest news: 'North East coastline boosted by bathing water results'.

To find out more about the changes to the Bathing Water Directive click on the PDF below.

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    Bathing waters

    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 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.

Our beaches

Our beaches  

Northumbrian Water has invested millions of pounds to improve the bathing water quality in our region over the past 15 years. Find out more

How you can help

Dwaine Pipe  

We’ve invested more than £1billion improving our coasts and rivers, but everyone can do their bit to protect the environment. Find out more

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