‘DR LOO AND THE TURDIS’ BACK FROM THE FUTURE WITH A SEWAGE STORY FOR GUERNSEY
A blue police box will materialise on the beach at Belle Greve
Bay, Guernsey at 11am on Wednesday 2nd December 2005.
Inside the time travelling ‘Tardis’ (or Turdis as we call it) will be a Dr
Loo, some sick surfers and some giant size viruses, which have been brought
back from the future to illustrate the problems the island of Guernsey could
face if a full sewage treatment system is not introduced on the island.
This action is the latest step in a campaign from Surfers Against Sewage
(SAS) that calls for an upgrading of the island’s ageing sewerage
infrastructure to fully treat sewage before discharge to sea. The island’s
sewage is currently discharged raw to sea each day.
Taking the time travelling theme SAS have dug around in the past and found
Guernsey’s bathing water quality was better overall 10 years ago than it was
in 2005. Since 1996 the water quality at Guernsey’s designated bathing
waters has steadily declined with fewer beaches passing the higher EU water
quality standard known as ‘Guideline’. The proportion of bathing waters
reaching the guideline standard has dropped from over 90% between 1996 and
1998 to just over 50% in 2004 and 2005. This means more beaches in Guernsey
are only now passing the minimum EU water quality standard, which leading
world health experts recognise as being hopelessly out of date. According to
World Health Organisation experts those using bathing waters for recreation
face a 1 in 7 chance of contracting a sewage related illness if they bathe
in water complying with this standard.
Without full sewage treatment – the only solution to eradicating the harmful
bacteria and viruses present in sewage – recreational water users and
bathers face a worsening situation.
A trip to the future reveals new EU Bathing Water legislation set to get
tougher from 2008 with the likely introduction of tighter water quality
standards. Whilst this legislation is not binding for Guernsey it is the
legislation the island’s Environment department work to in classifying water
quality at beaches. Without a significant investment in upgrading the
sewerage infrastructure in Guernsey it will become harder to meet the
improved standards and beaches could face the possibility of being further
With people having more leisure time watersports are becoming increasingly
popular and Guernsey has the wind, waves and tides to benefit from a growing
interest in these sports. But with raw sewage being discharged each day in
Belle Greve Bay only to then circulate the island with the tidal flow over a
period of 5-6 days there remains an ongoing risk of illness to water users.
Die off rates for viruses and bacteria in sewage effluent are slow, with
viruses like Hepatitis A surviving for up to 100 days in seawater. Dumping
raw sewage to sea and allowing the tides to take the waste out of sight out
of mind is not a solution as tidal flow just moves the sewage in a slick
around the island. If the sewage were fully treated before discharge to sea
then there would be no risk and no slick. It would also provide reuse
opportunities for the wastewater – a more sustainable solution in an
environment where water is becoming increasingly precious with the onset of
In the next few weeks it is expected that the Public Services Department and
the Environment Department will publish a green paper on sewage. SAS welcome
the States commitment to bring this issue to public consultation. SAS
believe there is already a groundswell of public opinion wanting full sewage
treatment. Over 2000 Guernsey residents signed an SAS petition in less than
a month last year calling for full sewage treatment. With the government
paper already delayed for almost a year it is vital this paper is published
in the coming weeks to ensure progress is quickly made on the issue.
Richard Hardy, SAS Campaigns Director says: “It is clear that fewer beaches
in Guernsey are meeting the higher (Guideline) EU water quality standard
than they were in 1996. With bathing water legislation set to become tighter
in the next few years the States will face some tough decisions if they hope
to keep pace. SAS hope the forthcoming green paper will encourage reasoned
public debate and lay the foundations for a sustainable, healthy and
environmentally friendly solution”.