Scotland’s beaches tainted with dangerous levels of sewage


By Kirsty Topping


Eyemouth beach was one of four which failed the safety test

FILTHY beaches across Scotland have dangerous levels of sewage on them, it has been revealed.

Eighteen of the country’s beaches have been contaminated, according to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), with four having completely failed a test for safe limits of faecal bacteria.

Almost 100 beaches across Scotland had their waters tested and were deemed to have pollution levels above the 35-year-old sewage safety limits in a single test.

Two breaches means the shore has been deemed a failure for the year.

The four beaches which failed the checks are Eyemouth in the Borders, Irvine in North Ayrshire, Sandyhills in Dumfries and Galloway and Lossiemouth East in Moray.

A further fourteen were badly polluted.

The pollution is thought to come from a mixture of overflowing sewers and animal waste being washes into waterways by rain.

It can cause problems for bathers, including causing stomach, ear and skin infections.

Andy Cummings of Surfers against Sewage said: “We are shocked and disappointed to hear that so many popular Scottish beaches have been polluted by sewage discharges this summer.

“This is a serious public health risk, With so many people using the coast to relax, surf and enjoy time with their families, it’s vital that the alarming rate of raw sewage releases in Scotland is tackled immediately.”

A SEPA spokesman confirmed that 23 single samples had breached the sewage limit and that four beaches had failed completely.

He said: “Most problems have been due to urban and agricultural diffuse pollution caused by rainfall.”

“As in previous years, wet weather has been a significant factor affecting the quality of bathing waters at some locations later in the season.”

Callum Duncan, of the Marine Conservation Society in Scotland, which publishes a “Good Beach Guide”, said: “These latest results highlight the unacceptable human health threat in some of our costal waters still posed by diluted raw sewage.

“Over half of the beaches tested last year were not recommended by us because of pollution and we beliveve combined sewer overflow pipes are partly to blame. We know of at least 120 Scottish costal sites with one or more overflows.”

Scottish water said there had been no “unlicenced discharges” from its plants this summer.

The National Farmers Union in Scotland (NUFS) said it was “vitally important” that farmers help to tackle pollution.

Jonathan Hall, head of rural policy, said: “Over the last two years the union has been working in partnership with both SEPA and the Scottish Government to raise awareness and improve practice to help reduce diffusion pollution risk.”

Three of this year’s failed beaches are repeat offenders. Sandyhills passed last year but failed in the three previous years and this year has had three water samples in breach of the limits for bacteria

Irvine failed in 2007, 2009 and 2010. SEPA says this years failure is due to “heavy rainfallcausing bacteria to be washed off both urban and agricultural areas into the River Irvine and then into Irvine Bay”.

Eyemouth failed in 2005 and 2007, with this year’s failure being attributed to “runoff from nearby land”.

While Lossiemouth East has not failed before, SEPA said the high sewage readings could be due to waste from livestock grazing near the River Lossie and possibly spills from sewers.




Saltcoats/Ardrossan, North Ayrshire

Milport Bay, Cumbrae, North Ayrshire

Troon South Beach, South Ayrshire

Prestwick, South Ayrshire

Ayr South Beach, South Ayrshire

Heads of Ayr, South Ayrshire

Dhoon Bay, Dumfries and Galloway

Pease Bay, Scottish Borders

Elie Harbour and Earlsferre, Fife

Kinghorn Pettycur, Fife

St Andrews East Sands, Fife

Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire

Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Rosemarkie, Fortrose, Highland.