Coldingham Beach keeps Blue Flag status

THERE’S mixed news for Berwickshire beaches this week, while one maintained its Blue Flag status for another year, another failed to get a recommendation from the Marine Conservation Society in its 2011 Good Beach Guide.

This year’s document, which is the biggest indicator of how safe bathing waters are at beaches right across the UK, was officially released today, and following the trend from previous years, both Coldingham Bay, which has been awarded Blue Flag status by Keep Scotland Beautiful for the second year running, and nearby Pease Bay were recommended based on data from last summer.

The news wasn’t so good for Eyemouth which took a step backwards, having been recommended in 2010 it only received a basic pass this year.

But given that the bathing waters at the Berwickshire port have previously failed to reach MCS standards, things could have been worse, particularly given that 46 beaches featured in the 2011 Guide failed to meet the basic level set 35 years ago in European law.

In the latest edition of the Guide, 461 UK beaches are recommended as having excellent bathing water quality - the third highest number in the Guide’s 24 year history.

And Georgia Conolly, head ranger at St Abbs Marine Reserve said it was no surprise that Coldingham, which attracts around 20,000 visitors a year and is one of only seven beaches in Scotland to achieve Blue Flag status in 2011, and Pease Bay were up there with the best, although she admitted that during the winter months even these beaches had had their problems.

“I spend a lot of time at all three beaches, mainly Coldingham, and visitor numbers so far this year have been fantastic; there were people swimming in the sea off Coldingham in April - very brave given the water temperature was only 4-5 degrees!

“There was one minor incident at the beach last year. Heavy rainfall prompted one of the storm sewers to overflow and sewage related debris such as cotton buds were found in the bathing waters. However, Scottish Water and SEPA promptly cleaned things up and we also have our own beach cleans to help monitor the situation.

“People surfing off Pease Bay during the winter said that the sewage treatment wasn’t as good as it could have been but we acknowledge that there’s always room for improvement.”

Robert Kierle, MCS pollution programme manager said he was particularly concerned about the amount of dilute sewage flowing into coastal waters and although Georgia said this wasn’t a massive problem at Eyemouth. She acknowledged that it was inevitable that the beach didn’t rate as highly as its neighbours.

Georgia added: “I can’t pinpoint a particular reason as to why Eyemouth has gone down a level this year but discharge from the River Eye naturally brings down effluent.

“Scottish Water and SEPA are always working on improving sewage treatment there and the good thing about Eyemouth is that there are electronic signs in place advising people of the water quality so they can make an informed decision on whether or not it is safe to bathe.”

From 2015 beaches will be classified using even stricter water quality standards due to the revision of the Bathing Water Directive.