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Allonby South Beach: is it safe to go in the water?

Another beach hazard – syringes from the sharps boxes.

Beach-lovers have until Thursday 28th February to give their views on the future of Allonby South as a designated bathing beach.

The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – DEFRA – is running an online consultation after the beach failed tests for bacterial pollution in 2018 and was rated ‘poor’. There are 410 bathing beaches in England but only 9 have sea-water that did not reach a safe standard for swimming, paddling and water-sports – Allonby South is one of them.

Solway cotton buds.

The ‘poor’ rating is based on tests by the Allerdale Borough Council for intestinal enterococci and E.coli during the bathing season from 15th May to 30th September 2018. This bacterial pollution is linked to sewage released into the sea via outfall pipes from waste water treatment plants. The Council propose to stop testing the sea-water and publishing the test results, citing low usage of the beach for bathing. Surveys by the Environment Agency in 2014 and 2017 confirm this low usage.

Allonby South beach clean 2018.

A voluntary group called Fix the Firth has carried out 13 beach cleans at Allonby South since November 2017.

Volunteers frequently pick up cotton buds, wet wipes, sanitary pads and syringes which organiser John Gorrill believes to be sewage-derived rubbish: “We can’t see the bacteria of course,” comments Mr Gorrill, “but we constantly find the plastic trash that comes with it.” Volunteers have also found many black plastic bio-filters which they believe to come from sewage treatment plants.

“I’ve seen kite-surfers at Allonby South Beach many times,” adds Mr Gorrill, “but I wouldn’t go in the water myself because I’ve seen what’s in it. If testing stops, the problem will get worse.” He believes that because the sea-water is polluted, then the sand and sea-weed must also be potentially harmful to beach-users, “This is not a built-up area – it’s a beautiful coast that depends on tourism. The Solway deserves better!”

If you would like to give your views on this issue, you can find DEFRA’s online consultation at consult.defra.gov.uk/water/bathing-water-removing-allonby-south/ The closing date is 28/2/19.

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