Clean Beach Proposals Oct03
New EU rules on bathing water,
supported by the European Parliament today, could remove the coveted
"blue flag" from many of Britain's beaches.
European Parliament in Strasbourg this week has voted for stricter rules
on bathing water quality, which should make it easier for the public to
see whether the sea (or lake) is fit for swimming.
from Strasbourg after the vote ,commented:
there is a voluntary blue flag system intended to show that the water
quality the previous year was fine, that the beach is swept regularly and
that toilet facilities are nearby . This will in future be supplemented by
a much more user-friendly "Smiley" sign, simply showing that the
water is excellent, good or bad for bathing; it will refer to the present
water quality instead of the past and it will be compulsory and universal.
With standardised testing across the EU this should be good news for
Water sports enthusiasts
including canoeists and windsurfers believe that they could be banned from
inland waters because land owners and public authorities will now have to
meet standards designed for swimming and not sporting activities.
MEPs have missed an opportunity to bring old legislation up to date,
simplify it and make it more flexible and improve information to the
public about the quality of bathing waters across Europe. Instead, they have imposed rules for no discernible health
reason and threatened blue flag status on many British beaches."
Commission has proposed a new Bathing Water Directive to replace the 1976
Bathing Water Directive which introduced binding water quality standards
for bathing waters.
proposals include higher water quality standards, but on two rather than
nineteen tests, affecting public health (gastro-enteritis and e-coli), a
more integrated quality management approach and harmonised methods for
handling water samples.
The Blue Flag
scheme uses the European legislation in its criteria for awarding flags
and the UK Marine Conservation Society uses the standards in compiling the
Good Beach Guide.
British Conservatives welcome this chance to simplify and update the
legislation, to make it flexible and to improve information to the public
about the quality of bathing waters across Europe.
However, the Socialists, Liberals and Greens have passed amendments
which would impose rules for no discernible health benefit and increase
costs to agriculture and water consumers.
Bathing Water Directive should be focused on those waters used for
bathing, and yet amendments passed by the Socialists, Liberals and Greens
extend the scope of the directive to include some waters used for other
recreational activities like surfing, wind-surfing and kayaking.
These tend to be undertaken further away from the shore over an
extended period; to include all these new waters as bathing water sites
would significantly increase the extent of monitoring and management
obligations at massive extra expense.
The British Canoe Union are concerned that if inland waters are
designated as bathing waters, landowners might prefer to deny access
altogether rather than meet the requirements of the legislation.
Conservatives supported the existing thresholds for "good" and
"excellent" water status (there is no evidence to suggest that
these fail to provide adequate health protection for bathers), but Labour
MEPs did not support these amendments.
The new higher levels will result in compliance with the Bathing
Water Directive falling significantly: Up to 200 of over 800 monitored UK
beaches could be deemed non-compliant (currently about 50 designated
additional chemical tests
passed by the Socialists, Liberals and Greens add new criteria relating to
the chemical composition of water - standards which will relate to aquatic
life and not have a direct bearing on public health.
These will add extra monitoring costs and could confuse the public
looking for reassurance about the health safety of water.
A Conservative amendment passed proposes a proper cost benefit analysis to be undertaken by the Commission. The UK estimates that the costs of compliance could range from €6.3b to €8.8b over 25 years before the massive additional costs from extending the scope to recreational waters.