EC BATHING WATER CONFERENCE IN BRUSSELS (1)

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) [1] is urging the UK
Government and EU Member States to support and take forward recent proposals
from the European Commission on a new Bathing Water Policy [2].
MCS believes that the Bathing Water Conference next week in Brussels, during
European Green Week, is a real opportunity to protect both the public from sewage
contamination and the environment.

Although the present Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) has been a valuable
instrument in driving improvements in water quality across Europe, it is now
widely considered to be outdated and inadequate. An original proposal for a
revision began in 1994 to revise the Directive; but this was never adopted,
due to scientific, technical and political reasons and has now been repealed.
MCS wants to make sure this does not happen again and urges all European Government’s
to support the Commission’s new proposal. MCS believes it is vital that the
present and next EU Presidency to take the proposals forward and don’t lose
this opportunity.

"The Marine Conservation Society has campaigned for the last 14 year’s
for a revision to the existing Bathing Water Directive and has responded to
the recent proposals from the EC to develop a new Bathing Water Policy fit for
the 21st Century", said Kate Hutchinson, Coastal Pollution Officer. "MCS
is delighted these proposals include raising the water quality standards and
better provision of public information, so everyone can make an informed choice
about where and whether to bathe."

MCS strongly supports many of the Commission’s proposals – the main elements
of which are;
· Greater emphasis on provision of better information to the public,
so they can make an ‘informed choice’ about where, and whether, to bathe
· A shift from bathing water quality monitoring to bathing water quality
management to increase understanding and control of local land use and agricultural
pollution sources, thereby taking account of all potential contamination and
pollution sources
· Tightening of the water quality standards in line with current scientific
thinking, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization [3]
· Definition of bathing areas and bathing itself, which if interpreted
properly would protect nearly all recreational users (divers, surfers etc.)
across Europe
· With the introduction of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (200/60/EEC)
[4]
covering environmental and ecological standards, the revised Bathing
Water Directive will focus on health standards but will be closely co-coordinated
with the WFD and its principles.

MCS is hoping that a final optimistic proposal can be outlined at next week’s
the conference to protect the public and the environment for the future and
ensure a Bathing Water Policy fit for the 21st Century.

Editors Notes:

[1] The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is one of the UK’s
most respected environmental groups. It seeks to protect the marine environment
for both wildlife and future generations by promoting its sustainable and environmentally
sensitive management. MCS believes in working through persuasion and effecting
change based on sound factual evidence.

Prevention of pollution of the marine and coastal environment from sewage,
litter and toxic chemicals has always been a major focus for MCS. The aim of
the MCS ‘Campaign for Clean Seas’ is to improve the quality of UK coastal waters
by reducing the input of pollutants that harm human health and marine life.
The Good Beach Guide is published every year as part of the MCS Campaign for
Clean Seas, which is sponsored this year by Cheltenham & Gloucester and
the Crown Estate.

[2] In December 2000, the European Commission published a
‘Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on Developing a new
Bathing Water Policy’. This initiated an open consultation exercise inviting
comments from interested parties by March 1st 2001. The consultation exercise
will culminate in a Bathing Water Conference in Brussels on the 24th – 26th
April. Comments made on the Communication and during the conference will be
incorporated into a draft Proposal for adoption by the Commission.

[3] Under the existing Directive there are two water quality standards for
coastal waters, the Mandatory and Guideline standards. The Mandatory standard
is the minimum legal standard set in the Directive. The Mandatory standard is
based on levels of faecal and total coliforms, which indicate the presence of
pollution from human sewage or livestock faeces. When a beach is declared pass
or fail it is the Mandatory standard that is referred to. There is now increasing
scientific evidence which shows that these microbiological standards are not
stringent enough to minimise the risk of contracting a serious illness. The
Guideline standard is 20 times higher than the Mandatory standard and also tests
for faecal streptococci.

Most studies have identified faecal streptococci as an indicator organism which
correlates most closely with health risks in coastal waters. The World Health
Organization (WHO) released proposed guidelines for recreational waters in 1998
in which WHO proposed Intestinal Enterococci, a derivative of Faecal Streptococci,
as the best indicator of microbiological contamination for coastal waters. These
underwent pier review last week and the recommendations for standard levels
will be given at the Bathing Water Conference.

[4] The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EEC) entered into
force on the 22 December 2000. EU member states must now transpose the law into
national legislation by 22 December 2003, by which time they must have identified
competent authorities responsible for meeting environmental objectives for river
basin districts. The Directive’s overarching objective of achieving good status
for all surface and groundwater will have to be achieved by December 2015. Countries
will have to "take account" of the principle of recovery of costs
of water services so that by 2010 there are "adequate" incentives
for efficient resource use. All polluting discharges must be controlled under
a combined approach of best available techniques and emission limit values,
as well as best environmental practices for diffuse pollution, by December 2012.

For more information or a copy of the MCS response to the EC Communication
Bathing Water please contact -
Kate Hutchinson – Coastal Pollution Officer
Sam Pollard – Director of Conservation
Marine Conservation Society, 9 Gloucester Road, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR9
5BU
Tel: 01989 566017 Fax: 01989 567815 Mobile: 07776 204595

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