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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Dirty Allonby beach one of worst in UK, says Environment Agency

Allonby beach has been named one of the dirtiest in Britain after a wash-out summer led to the worst water quality conditions in 10 years.

The wet weather has washed sewage from the water system, animal waste from the land, and mess from the streets into the sea at alarming levels, environment experts say.

Allonby South has been named in a list of 26 in England and Wales which failed to meet basic standards this summer, according to the Environment Agency.

Richard Benyon, environment minister, warned the results were the worst in more than a decade, despite billions being invested by water companies to stop raw sewage being pumped into the sea.

Robert Keirle, pollution programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society, told the News & Star that Cumbria, and the north west as a whole, had the worst water quality in the UK.

“There are three kinds of pollution – sewage overflow from water pipes, livestock waste that has washed off from the land – in Cumbria, that’s predominantly cows and sheep, and dog muck that has washed off the streets in to the drains and out into rivers and then to the sea,” he said.

“In Cumbria, there are several factors why the water quality is not good. It’s in the west side of the country and, being the Lake District, it rains more than in other areas.

“The more rain there is, the more chance there is for things to be washed out in to the sea.

“Farmland, which is used for grazing more than growing crops in Cumbria, means there will be more waste from the animals. If you factor all that together, together with the wettest summer we have ever had, it’s a perfect storm.”

Mr Keirle said there were 16 beaches in Cumbria classed as having bathing water. Of those, nine are classed as being of lowest grade of water quality of poor, two scraped a pass and five were classed as good. None reached the excellent standard, he said.

Ian Stephens, Cumbria Tourism’s managing director, said Cumbria’s beaches were playing an increasingly important role in the tourism economy.

“Projects like Cumbria Tourism’s Adventure Capital programme are seeking to develop this under utilised resource,” he said.

“There are several areas on our coast where agencies are working together to address water quality issues.

“They are working to ensure that the bathing water quality along Cumbria’s coastline is of the highest possible standard therefore ensuring that in the future all of our beaches reach the same high standards.”

Mr Stephens said four beaches – at St Bees, Seascale, Silecroft and Haverigg – had been awarded Quality Coast Awards for 2012.

“Our coastline has a lot to offer,” he added.

A spokeswoman for United Utilities said there were many factors for poor water quality, not just sewage contamination.

“In the last 15 years across the North West United Utilities will have invested £1bn in projects to capture and treat storm water that would otherwise overflow into the rivers and the sea, including major improvements to sewer systems in Maryport and a treatment works at Allonby,” she said.

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