More than 50 British beaches 'not safe' under new EU rules

More than 50 British beaches 'not safe' under new EU rules

Beaches that don't improve will have to display signs warning against swimming
The EU's rules for water safety are getting much stricter.

More than 50 top British beaches would be declared unsafe for swimming under the European Union’s new water safety rules. 

The European Environment Agency is to introduce new, stricter guidelines on water pollution in 2015.

The Telegraph has named 55 beaches in England, including popular resorts in Cornwall, Dorset and Hampshire, that do not currently meet the new standards, which would classify beaches as “excellent,” “good,” “sufficient” or “poor.”

"For those classed as poor, beach controllers will be required to display a sign advising visitors not to swim there," said an Environment Agency spokesperson to CNN.

Sufficient, good and excellent beaches will also display their classifications to advertise better water quality.

High time

Environment agencies began monitoring England's beaches last year after the new EU standards were outlined in a revised Bathing Water Directive.

Under the new, stricter directive, which was issued in 2006 and will go into effect in 2015, full profiles including all pollution sources and levels of 500 beaches will be available on the Environment Agency's website.

It will be a long overdue overhaul -- the current standards were put into place in 1975, when the sewage outflow levels were much higher than today. 

The new standards will set stricter microbiological parameters and, with the intention of raising public awareness about beach health hazards, the categories for water quality will be switched from “guideline” and “mandatory” to the new four-rating system.

The new decree means signs will also be posted at beaches warning the public about sewage sources nearby. 

The usual sources of contamination at the problematic beaches include run-off water from livestock on farms, misconnected drains and sewer overflows that become overloaded during heavy rainfall, according to Public Health England

"Livestock like animals or even people and their pets on the beach will cause contamination," said the Environment Agency spokesperson. "But it’s not all doom and gloom, many of our bathing waters are good or excellent."

British beachgoers wishing to check if their destination is safe for swimming can do so via a number of free guides that use the same data from the Environment Agency, such as the Marine Conservation Society's Good Beach Guide published each year. 

More on CNN: World's 50 best beaches

Additional reporting by Qin Xie

Frances Cha is a Digital Producer at CNN Travel. 


Read more about Frances Cha