New EU standards on sea water cleanliness may see a stack of English beaches lose their ratings as safe places to swim, with the likes of Blackpool, Ilfracombe and Lyme Regis possibly having to go so far as erecting signs saying the water's not clean enough to swim in, to meet EU rules.
The changes are coming about thanks to much tighter controls on levels of bacteria in the water, which will come in to force this week. The updated EU guidelines cut acceptable levels of some bacteria in the water by half, meaning that, although English beaches are getting cleaner than ever, they could still fail to hit the new targets.
The EU Bathing Water Directive says that local authorities need to take measures to inform the public should a beach fail, explaining: "Where water is classified as 'poor', Member States should take certain management measures, e.g. banning bathing or posting a notice advising against it, providing information to the public, and suitable corrective measures."
Data from the Environment Agency suggests 25 English beaches may end up having their water declared "poor" when the rule changes come in, despite water quality around the coast being better than ever. Or better since we started pumping everything into the sea a couple of hundred years ago, at least. [EU Bathing Water Directive via Guardian]