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Photo: Bob Mazzer, courtesy HBC

Bathing water contamination to be tackled

Hastings Borough Council, the Environment Agency and Southern Water are working together to tackle contamination in the bathing water, which threatens to affect its quality rating, writes Nick Terdre. As a seaside resort, Hastings stands to lose a lot if the quality of its sea-water is rated as poor and people are advised against swimming in the sea.

With minimum standards for bathing water quality set to become twice as stringent over the next few years, the issue needs to be tackled with some degree of urgency, according to Councillor Phil Scott, lead member for the environment.

The three partners have identified the ‘wrong connection’ of waste-water pipes to the surface water system, as the likely source of contamination. Once in the surface water system, waste-water – the water from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens – is discharged into the sea without treatment.

The search for the contamination source has been narrowed down to a couple of areas, according to Jaime Benton of the Environment Agency. Further work will concentrate on the waters flowing through Alexandra Park and entering the sea via a culvert at Denmark Place and the lower catchment system in St Leonards, he says.

By working their way upstream, the investigators can eventually identify individual households with the wrong connections.

Plumb wrong

These may have resulted when homes and other properties were extended and new kitchens or bathrooms added. While some plumbers might consciously connect up systems wrongly to save time and/or money, it is also possible for genuine mistakes to be made, as Cllr Scott accepts.

Whatever the source of the mistake, it can assume large proportions, which is particularly worrying in a seaside resort. In Torbay, Devon, a recent investigation found 100 wrongly connected properties.

Once a wrong connection has been identified, the first step is to notify the owner and remind them of their responsibility for having their property correctly plumbed. “If they don’t, we can take further action, but we obviously hope it won’t come to that,” says Cllr Scott.

Other actions are planned, Mr Benton says. These include removing the silt from the ponds in Alexandra Park, as it is known that it can harbour the contaminating bacteria. A filter system which claims to trap the bacteria will also be trialled.

The council and the Environment Agency will also work with the voluntary sector to spread the message about bathing water quality and getting your connections right. A good starting point for those who want to know more is the ConnectRight website, says Mr Benton.

Posted 11:30 Wednesday, Jan 23, 2013 In: Health Matters

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