Walpole Bay has achieved an excellent rating for bathing water quality in the latest classifications released by the Environment Agency.
The rating moves Walpole up from the Good grading in 2019. No classifications were issued in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The excellent rating at the designated bathing area, which includes the ever-popular Victorian tidal pool, shows continued improvement following Poor gradings in 2015 and 2016, Sufficient in 2018 and the Good grading in 2019.
It is also good news for Joss Bay and Botany Bay in Broadstairs which have both been rated Excellent, rising from a Good grading in 2019.
However, there is disappointment for Viking Bay which drops from a Good grading to ‘Sufficient’.
Other gradings for 2021 – published this week – remain unchanged from 2019.
Results for the 2021 bathing season nationally show 94.7% of beaches and inland waters gained an ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ rating while 4.3% achieved the minimum ‘Sufficient’ rating. This compares with 98.3% passing the required standards in 2019 and is the highest number since new standards were introduced in 2015.
Bathing waters are monitored for sources of pollution known to be a risk to bathers’ health, with up to 20 samples taken from each site during the bathing season. Each sample is tested for bacteria, specifically E coli and intestinal enterococci.
The EA has been monitoring bathing water sites since the 1990s, and in this time there have been significant improvements. In the early 1990s just 28% of bathing waters met the highest standards in force at that time. Based on today’s data, 99% of bathing waters meet the minimum standard, with 70.7% reaching the highest standards.
Since 2015 the EA has required water companies to install Event Duration Monitors at bathing water sites. This captures data on the frequency and duration of storm overflow discharges, with all the data published online so the public can see what is happening in their area. More than 12,000 of England’s 15,000 storm overflows now have these monitors, and the remaining 3,000 will have them by end of next year.
Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “With billions spent on seaside visits every year, we know good water quality helps coastal towns prosper. Twenty years of improvements in bathing water took targeted regulation and significant investment. While this is reflected in (the) results we must continue to work together to maintain this trend.
“We cannot afford to be complacent. Public confidence in water quality has faltered in recent years with new evidence of pollution incidents getting much needed attention as a result of some excellent campaigning. The polluter must pay. To restore trust, water companies, industry and farmers need to get the basics right or face legal action.
“The prize is multiple benefits to people and nature. The Environment Agency is working to ensure £120 million is invested in coastal habitats like England’s saltmarshes, which protect against coastal erosion and also store carbon equivalent to nearly 40 million people’s annual domestic emissions.”
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Thanet has 13 designated bathing waters and we are very pleased to see that ten of them have been classified as ‘Excellent’ and three classified as ‘Good’ or ‘Sufficient’. It’s wonderful to see that so many of our beaches and bays, including Walpole Bay are ‘Excellent’.
“There has been a great deal of hard work to help improve the quality of the bathing water along Thanet’s coastline. In particular, there has been considerable help from a range of community groups to ensure that Walpole Bay has continued to improve. Beach Management initiatives have included litter picks, additional bins, and tackling anti-social behaviour in the area. There is also a dog Public Spaces Protection Order, which was renewed in 2020 and lists the beaches that welcome dogs during peak season or stipulates time and on/off lead restrictions.
“The bathing water quality at Viking Bay has been marked ‘sufficient’ this year which means it does still meet the minimum standard. The results are aggregated on historic readings, usually dating back four years*, and as such are not just a reflection of the past 12 months but can be affected by the years preceding too.”
Excellent – the highest, cleanest seas
Good – generally good water quality
Sufficient – the water meets minimum standards
Poor – the water has not met the new minimum standards. Work is planned to improve bathing waters not yet reaching Sufficient
If water is classified as poor, then a sign advising against bathing will be displayed. However the beach remains open for people to enjoy.
*There were insufficient samples collected in 2020 due to Covid-19 and therefore not included in the classification data – this has been applied nationally. The latest classification based data is from 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Thanet Designated Bathing Area Grade
Minnis Bay – Excellent (unchanged)
Viking Bay – Sufficient (2019- Good)
Botany Bay – Excellent (2019 -Good)
Stone Bay – Excellent (unchanged)
Joss Bay – Excellent (2019 -Good)
Fulsam Rock – Excellent (unchanged)
Main Sands – Excellent (unchanged)
Westbrook Bay – Excellent (unchanged)
Walpole Bay – Excellent (2019 -Good)
Main Sands – Good (unchanged)
Western Undercliff – Good (unchanged)
St Mildred’s Bay – Excellent (unchanged)
West Bay – Excellent (unchanged)