Over the last 20 years we’ve made huge progress in making our beaches and bathing waters cleaner. In 1988 only 18% of our bathing waters met minimum standards, compared to 100% in 2014. But from 2015 the standards are much stricter so there’s more to do…

Avoid a fatberg this Christmas

Beach cleaners of the North West are asking everyone to do their bit to keep the beaches clean this Christmas by binning their used cooking fats and oil rather than pouring them down the sink.

If you pour leftover fat from cooking down the sink, even with hot water and washing up liquid, it sets hard in the cold pipes and mixes with other unmentionables flushed down the loo, like wet wipes and sanitary products.

As well as causing problems at home, clogged sewer pipes that take waste water away can cause untreated sewage to run into homes, gardens, streets and even end up in rivers, the sea and on beaches. Yuk!

Each household pours around 14lbs of cooking fats, oils and grease down the sink every year – that’s equivalent to 25 packs of butter! Clearing a blocked drain at your house could cost at least £60 but could be much more. United Utilities attends a blocked drain every 15 minutes.

Protecting our waste pipes from getting blocked and polluting our rivers and seas means everyone doing their bit to help keep them clear.

LOVEmyBEACH, the North West campaign for cleaner beaches and seas has some top tips to avoid blockages:

  • Scrape leftover fat from roasting trays and pans into a heat resistant container then recycle or bin it when cooled
  • Wipe out grease left in pans with kitchen roll and bin it
  • Use a sink strainer to catch food scraps and bin
  • For larger quantities of cooking oils, contact your local council who’ll let you know if they can be recycled

Fylde LOVEmyBEACH officer Emma Whitlock said,

“Everyone loves the beach and wants to help keep them clean, but most people don’t know they can help do this from their home by binning used cooking fats and keeping the pipes clear. Even if you can’t come out on a beach clean you can do this small action that will make a big difference, so please #binit4beaches this Christmas!”

Fat trap

Testing cleaner seas

Ever wondered how Defra work out bathing water classifications? How one bathing spot is ‘good’ and another ‘excellent’?

Volunteers from the Fylde coast were curious about this process, and as some of them clean beaches that are designated for swimming and paddling, they are likely to spot a member of Environment Agency team out taking a sample.

The volunteers met with the Environment Agency (EA) samplers at St Annes North bathing beach to learn about the process and see them take a demonstration sample.

Firstly, Bob who is one of the samplers, explained the process they go through 20 times every summer at each bathing water. With 31 across the North West needing regular sampling this keeps the team very busy!

The samplers use a sterile 1 litre bottle for each new sample, with the location, date and time that the sample was taken labelled on, so that when it is sent to the lab to be tested the sample can be identified.

They then get their waders on and walk out to the sea, aiming to go in about 1 metre depth of water. Bob explained that with varying weather and wave conditions this can sometimes be tricky and in extreme weather they wouldn’t take the risk of going in and would have to postpone the sample.

Once in the water they lower the bottle to about 30 cm below the surface and open the lid, filling up the bottle and then sealing it again underwater so there is no contamination from the air. They also take some water in a metal tube to measure pH, salinity and temperature for the EA’s data collection.

Whilst out on the bathing beach the samplers do other surveys, recording the number of ‘bathers’ – that’s anyone in the water whether paddling, swimming or kite surfing, and other people and dogs on the beach (even though dogs are excluded on most bathing beaches during the summer!)

They also note amounts of litter and other debris, all of which gives a detailed profile of each bathing beach which can be found on the EA website: https://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles/

Taking the water sample back to the car the samplers store them in a fridge to keep bacteria from growing or declining in numbers. The sample is then sent to a laboratory where some of the water is put in a petri dish and bacteria cultures are grown. The lab is looking for E.coli and Intestinal Enterococci, as these are key indicators of faecal matter in the water that could make people ill.

The results are published on the EA website (follow the link) and from these bathing water classifications are determined.

The volunteers really enjoyed seeing this process and understanding more about what goes into the classifications which this year has led to brilliant results for the North West coast, with all bathing waters passing the standards for the next bathing season.

Environment Agency water sample testing

Come on in, the water’s lovely!

The North West’s coastline is fantastic and now it’s official. Whether you swim, paddle or just take a stroll on one of the region’s many beaches, you can be assured of one thing today, the quality of the seawater is better than at any time in the last 30 years.

For the first time ever, all 27 of the North West’s coastal bathing beaches, meet the government’s required standards for water quality, with 8 meeting the even tougher standards needed for a Blue Flag. An additional 4 inland swimming spots at Windermere also met the Blue Flag water quality standards.

The water at our beaches has continually improved since 1988 when just 18% met the previous standards.

Since this time,  a huge range of organisations have worked to reduce pollution and look after rivers, lakes and the sea, including the Environment Agency, United Utilities, local authorities, farmers, environmental organisations and local communities and businesses.

In 2012, these partners came together to form the Turning Tides Partnership, to ensure effective co-ordination of all improvement works and developing a brand new campaign ‘LOVEmyBEACH’ to engage businesses and the public with their local beaches.

Neil Jack, Chair of The Turning tides Partnership and Chief Executive of Blackpool Council said:

“The improvements are a team effort across the whole region so it’s good to see how much cleaner the water is at our beaches. In Blackpool we’re immensely proud that all our bathing waters have passed and people can swim and paddle in the knowledge that the water meets these incredibly strict standards. To have the opportunity to retain the Blue Flag in Blackpool is really exciting.

“We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed towards making our seas cleaner from the National Farmers Union and Catchment Sensitive Farming project, to all the volunteers involved in beach cleans as part of the LOVEmyBEACH work, United Utilities’ investment in upgrading treatment works and building extra storm water storage, to every dog owner who bags and bins their dog’s mess to stop it getting in the sea.”

“For us to maintain and improve our bathing water quality, we ask everyone who lives, works and visits the North West to please do your bit to help us have even cleaner seas. There’s lots of information about what we’re doing and how you can get involved on the LOVEmyBEACH website.

Keith Ashcroft Environment Agency Deputy Director Cumbria and Lancashire said:

“We should be very proud of the continued improvement in the cleanliness of our North West bathing waters.  The improvements come as a result of major investment in how our waste water is managed and the efforts of our Turning Tides partners. We will continue to work to ensure bathing waters are maintained and improved further.”

North West coast