Guernsey discharges the raw sewage of 65,000 islanders into sea everyday via 3 outfalls positioned on the east and south coasts. The main outfall at Bellegreve discharges the bulk of this through a long sea outfall into the Little Russel, just to the north of St Peter Port.
Guernsey is hugely popular for recreational watersports and has well established, sailing, surfing, windsurfing and rowing clubs. The island’s tourist body actively promotes the beaches and watersports available in Guernsey as a selling point yet water quality on the island can be very poor at times. Studies show that Guernsey’s main discharge at Bellegreve creates a plume that moves anti-clockwise around the island with tidal flow. Because there is no treatment of the sewage, bacteria and viruses can survive in that effluent plume for many days, sometimes weeks and so this represents a huge health threat to those using the water for bathing and recreation.
In early 2012, the States of Guernsey decided to continue discharging raw sewage daily into their beautiful coastline. 65,000 people’s raw sewage and wastewater equals approximately 16,000 tons dumped at sea daily.
The arguments against this archaic practise have already been won, at least twice! The States of Guernsey first committed to full sewage treatment last century and again to a modern sewage treatment facility in 2009. They have even been billing the population to pay for it. However, they are about to recommend continuing to discharge 65,000 sewage raw into the sea for the foreseeable future.
This recommendation flouts the absolute minimum standards that the rest of Europe and the majority of the developed world adhere too. And it’s a slap in the face for Guernsey locals who have consistently called for better protection for their beautiful beaches.
Hundreds of SAS supporters from Guernsey, the UK and around the world have registered their disgust using SAS’s social media channels, including Facebook & Twitter. Condemnation has been rife on Guernsey’s facebook page. A selection of the social media comments include
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) joins SAS in urging Guernsey to treat their swage responsibly. MCS Coastal Pollution Officer, Rachel Wyatt said: “ The MCS Good Beach Guide only recommends beaches with the best bathing water quality around the UK, and has been unable to recommend those affected by the poor treatment of Guernsey’s sewage.”
SAS recently met with the Public Service minister Bernard Flouquet and representatives from Guernsey Water and the Public Service team. SAS left disappointed as the Guernsey representatives could not justify several unsubstantiated claims within their reports. Most notably, claims that Guernsey are meeting the requirements of the relevant European legislation (although not legally binding for Guernsey, they are used as a benchmark). And removing 65,000 people’s organic matter from Guernsey’s raw sewage would “have no significant impact on bacterial loads (in the sewage to be discharged)” Public Service’s Liquid Waste Strategy 2011. This is incorrect and overlooks the importance of primary treatment stages. Primary sewage treatment would remove the vast majority of the organic material. This is the first step of responsible sewage treatment and a vital component in reducing the number of harmful pathogens along with their ability to survive in the marine environment.
To clarify, it is accepted that organic material in sewage effluent reduces the effectiveness of the ‘natural UV treatment process’ (sunlight) that the department are promoting as a solution to sanitising Guernsey’s untreated sewage effluent. Organic matter will also actively prolong the life of harmful pathogens in the waters around Guernsey by providing nutrients and protection from predators such as zooplankton. This is precisely why EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91) directive require secondary treatment (or primary if the effluent is discharged into a less sensitive area), including the removal of organic matter, as the very bare minimum, a directive Guernsey are supposedly using as a benchmark.