Sea water quality can be affected by a number of factors during heavy rain, including run off from roads and farmland, faeces from birds and dogs on beaches and storm water overflows.
Dog faeces contain the same type of faecal bacteria that are used to assess the quality of seawater at bathing waters, as is the case with the faeces of all warm-blooded animals and birds.
To combat this risk, some councils ban dogs from designated bathing water beaches during the official bathing water season from May to September. During this period, the Environment Agency collect weekly samples from the 84 designated bathing waters in the Southern Water region.
The results of the tests are uploaded at environment.data.gov.uk/bwq
During this bathing water season (2014) information is being presented to the public when poor water quality is predicted at certain beaches due to the effects caused by heavy rain.
The beaches being trialled this year include Lancing (Beach Green) and Worthing. Sharing this information allows the public to make an informed decision on whether to bathe or not.
The initiative is being promoted by the Environment Agency, which posts daily predictions on its website. Council beach managers then put up dated signs at beaches before 9am every day during bathing season when poor quality is predicted due to bad weather.
With regards to Southern Water’s operations along the coast, we have a number of treatment works which are permitted by the Environment Agency to release heavily diluted screened stormwater to sea during storms to protect homes and properties from flooding.
This activity is carried out at several hundred sites across the UK because a sewer system cannot operate as a sealed system.
At the end of July, when we experienced severe storms, the East Worthing treatment works released very diluted stormwater out to sea to protect the town.
The bathing water results for that period, taken by the Environment Agency, show no failures in sea water quality.
It is important to note the advice from Public Health England that beaches are not sterile environments and bacteria from a number of sources can be found in bathing waters.
You can help to protect your local bathing water by ensuring that wet wipes, cotton buds or other items which do not biodegrade and which cause blockages in sewers and treatment works are put in the bin rather than flushed away.
Head of Water Quality and Environmental Policy,
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