European regulations

Sewage pollution of beaches has become a major topic in Europe in recent years. There are now two main EC directives relating to sewage pollution:

(i) The Bathing Water Directive (1975)

This aims to protect recreational users of bathing waters from health risks associated with sewage pollution. Bathing waters are designated by each EC member state and are tested annually. Whilst a good concept, there have been considerable problems with the standard tests used and confusion over various beach awards such as the EC Blue Flag award and the Seaside Awards. These awards can be given to beaches with widely differing water quality. In the UK, the Marine Conservation Society now produces an annual Good Beach Guide (MCS, 1997), an independent source of information about the state of Britain's beaches.

(ii) The Municipal Waste Water Directive (1991)

When fully implemented, this will require all coastal sewage discharges serving populations over 10 000 people to receive secondary treatment (see Section 10.1.5) before discharge. However, discharges to 'less sensitive' waters need only receive primary treatment. Discharge to 'sensitive' waters may require tertiary treatment (removal of nitrates and phosphates). The disposal of sewage sludge from treatment plants, by dumping at sea, should be phased out in UK by 1998.

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