Bute beach passes European water quality tests

Ettrick Bay has passed European water quality standards for the fourth year in a row.
Ettrick Bay has passed European water quality standards for the fourth year in a row.

Ettrick Bay on Bute’s west coast has passed European water quality tests for the fourth year in a row.

Nineteen of the 20 tests carried out during the annual testing season, between June 1 and September 15, met either mandatory or guideline standards laid down by the EU.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency announced on Monday that for the first time since 2006, all 83 designated bathing waters around Scotland met either the mandatory or guideline standards.

Calum McPhail, environmental quality manager for SEPA, said: “2013 has clearly been the best year on record. Whilst 2006 also recorded a 100 per cent pass rate the results this year include 20 more bathing waters due to additional designations in the intervening period.

“Moreover, this year an even greater proportion of bathing waters reached the highest guideline standard.

“The success of bathing water seasons in Scotland is very weather dependent, as changeable weather patterns and heavy summer rains can have a negative impact on water quality. This year we have enjoyed a good run of dry months, although there were a few periods of very heavy rain in June and July in both the north and west of the country.

“These results clearly demonstrate the benefit of a dry summer, where lower than normal heavy rainfall events have led to less water running off land which can carry contaminants into streams, burns and rivers (diffuse pollution).

“SEPA has been working closely with many partners to raise awareness of the risks and impacts of pollution, and measures to reduce them, so that wet weather will have less of a role to play in how our beaches perform every summer.”

Environment minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Scotland’s beaches are on a par with some of Europe’s finest, and after a good summer, when we have all had had the opportunity to enjoy the weather and for many to visit our beaches, it is good to see that the water quality at all our designated bathing waters has met the required European standard.

“A lot of work has been carried out by Scottish Government and SEPA, in association with other partners, in catchments where water quality is at risk. This has been reflected in monitoring with the highest ever number of samples achieving the top water quality standard being recorded. This work will continue, to ensure that, in future, families can enjoy a day at the beach and have confidence in the quality of the water.

“In parallel with this, SEPA is working with groups representing the water sports community, such as surfers, to examine the options for improving information relating to water quality at relevant locations outside of the designated bathing water season.”

The only failed sample at Ettrick Bay was recorded on July 26, and was blamed on heavy rainfall leading to increased agricultural run-off into water courses flowing into the bay.

That sample was one of three taken across Scotland during the summer where poor water quality was predicted due to rainfall, and which were discounted from the overall results as appropriate electronic signage was in place advising against bathing.

Samples taken at Ettrick Bay have shown a marked improvement over recent years after six successive failures were recorded following the beach’s designation in 1999.

Overall passes were recorded in 2005 and 2006, and though the beach failed again in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the minimum standard was met in 2010, 2011 and 2012.