Budleigh Salterton beach received an Excellent classification for its bathing water quality

Defra announces 2016 bathing water quality results – East Devon has 7 Excellent beaches and 1 Good beach

The bathing waters at East Devon’s eight beaches have all passed the stringent testing standards set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The announcement of the 2016 bathing water quality results, which was made by Defra earlier today, revealed that seven of the district’s beaches received an Excellent classification – which is the highest and cleanest class (an improvement from 2015 when only four beaches were classed as Excellent), while one – Ladram Bay (which is privately owned and managed)  - received a Good water quality rating, an improvement on its Sufficient rating in 2015.

Overall, the 2016 results for East Devon bathing waters are the best that the district has ever received.  The classifications announced today are based on combined results from 2013-2016.  The exceptionally dry summer has contributed to these good results.

The revised bathing water directive uses figures calculated from four years of data, which are based on combined samples. The new annual classifications – Excellent, Good, Sufficient and Poor - are in turn based on these figures, using a percentile calculation.

Bathing water quality standards are based on guidelines produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which were translated into UK law in 2015. Bathing water quality is measured by the amount of bacteria within a water sample and counts are undertaken throughout the bathing season to see if the water quality meets WHO standards. The directive sets limits for a number of bacteria and all countries in the EU have to make sure their popular beaches meet these standards. These popular beaches are known as designated bathing waters.

East Devon beach results 2016

East Devon has eight designated bathing waters, two of which (Ladram Bay and Sandy Bay) are privately owned and managed.

Seven beaches – Seaton, Beer, Sidmouth Town, Sidmouth Jacob’s Ladder, Budleigh Salterton, Sandy Bay and Exmouth – have received an Excellent classification, which is the highest and cleanest class.

One beach – Ladram Bay was classified as Good, with generally good water quality.

East Devon beach results 2015

Four beaches – Seaton, Beer, Sidmouth Jacob’s Ladder and Sandy Bay – received an Excellent classification

Three beaches – Sidmouth Town, Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth– were classified as Good

One beach – Ladram Bay received a Sufficient rating, which meant their water met minimum standards

Testing the waters – working with the EA to improve water quality

Bathing waters at beaches are sampled and tested by the Environment Agency at weekly intervals between May and September, with a minimum of 20 samples tested.

East Devon’s Environmental Health (EH) team also receives daily water quality risk forecasts based on rainfall from the Environment Agency. These forecasts are part of the EA’s pollution-risk forecasting programme.

As soon as East Devon receives a water quality warning officers from the council put up a sign on the relevant beach, advising people not to swim as the bathing water quality may have been adversely affected by rainfall. The sign will have the day’s date on it and is only current for that day, so bathers can be reassured that the information given is completely up to date.

Commenting on the UK Bathing Water results, East Devon District Councillor Iain Chubb, portfolio holder for the environment, said:

This is fantastic news, due in part to the good team work our Environmental Health and StreetScene teams carry out with the Environment Agency (EA) (such as issuing the warnings when bathing water quality is affected by heavy rainfall), as well as the good weather. I am delighted that all of the beaches managed by the council have been classified as Excellent. To have gone from four Excellent rated beaches to seven, in the course of just one year, is a marvellous achievement of which we are very proud. I am also pleased that Ladram Bay has moved up from Sufficient to Good.

There are significant health benefits to being at the beach, so it is brilliant that our bathing waters are clean and safe for people to enjoy. However, it is important to remember that they are particularly susceptible to short term pollution, caused by heavy rain and sometimes agricultural run-off into rivers and streams, so bathers should always wash their hands after swimming or paddling in the sea. Having such great water quality makes our beach huts even better value.

Sir James Bevan Chief Executive of the Environment Agency said:

Water quality at beaches has improved again this year, over 98% passed the high standards and there are 287 Excellent English beaches.

The Environment Agency has led successful work to protect people, tourism and the environment.  We will continue to ensure bathing waters are maintained and improved further, so we need partners and the public to work with us to reduce pollution.

We encourage all beach-goers to check water quality advice, this is available at every bathing beach and on our Bathing Water Data website.

Full results can be found on the Defra’s website.

Further information about bathing water quality, can be found on the East Devon District Council website.

The Environment Agency publishes information about water quality at England's bathing waters on their online Bathing Water Data Explorer.

Social media users can follow the results on Twitter #cleanerseas