Clean water campaigners Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are celebrating this bank holiday Monday as Keep Britain Tidy commit to warning systems informing the public after sewage discharges on Blue Flag beaches. This commitment is a direct response to SAS exposing over 25% of the UK’s Blue Flags as currently failing to meet the imperative Blue Flag regulations and failing to warn the public after sewage spills. SAS are confident that next year’s Blue Flag beaches will provide beach lovers with an enhanced beach experience.
On 06/08/10 SAS raised their own brown flags on Blue Flag beaches that they believe have Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO), but no reliable system in place to inform the public after these CSOs discharge raw sewage. SAS attained this information using freedom of information requests from local authorities. This inadequacy means the beaches identified cannot meet the imperative international criterion set by FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education) and so FEE regulations stipulate the flags should be withdrawn.
The Blue Flag programme is a world wide initiative run by the independent non-profit organisation FEE. There are Blue Flag beaches in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, New Zealand and throughout Europe. The Blue Flag is a recognised standard of excellence for water quality and beach cleanliness. For a beach to achieve the acclaimed Blue Flag status it must first meet a set of strict criteria. The full list of the criteria can be found at: http://coastal.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/documents/blue-flag-criteria.pdf
Although Keep Britain Tidy insist that all UK Blue Flag beaches meet their interpretation of the imperative criterion 28, SAS are pleased that Keep Britain Tidy have re-evaluated their requirements. Keep Britain Tidy are now insisting all Blue Flag beaches that have CSOs that can discharge sewage immediately onto or adjacent of the beach have systems in place for real time warnings when sewage is discharged onto the beach. These improvements will be in place from May 2011.
The relevant Blue Flag criterion (28): “….. As long as the hazard persists, the public should be informed of the pollution or potential danger by posting information at the beach, at all access points, in the media, tourist offices or other relevant means of communication. If the hazard is in the form of polluted water then the public must be informed that bathing is not safe and the beach should be closed to swimming. If there is any infringement of Blue Flag criteria, e.g. sewage pollution, and to ensure the integrity of the Blue Flag, the flag must be temporarily withdrawn and information posted on the Blue Flag information board or at the beach…..”
SAS also support Keep Britain Tidy’s calls for more information on the CSO network around the UK and their impact on water quality.
SAS Campaign Director Andy Cummins says: “SAS’s successful campaign will protect the integrity of all Blue Flags around the UK. It will also ensure that from 2011 the public using Blue Flag beaches will be provided with the information they deserve to make an informed decision before they potentially expose themselves to harmful pathogens from sewage polluted waters.”