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‘Public confidence in water quality has faltered’ says Environment Agency

Following the publication of the latest bathing water quality standards, the Environment Agency acknowledged the change in public confidence.

The results of the report showed a decrease in the number of bathing waters that received ‘excellent’ status.

The Environment Agency stated that public confidence has ‘faltered’ while also adding that water companies and other areas need to ‘get the basics right or face legal action’.

Chairperson of the agency, Emma Howard Boyd, explained that ‘new evidence’ and ‘excellent campaigning’ has helped shed light on pollution incidents.

Swim England back the commitment made by the Environment Agency that ‘the polluter must pay’ and say that the scale of incidents has ‘rightly shocked the public’.

Boyd said: “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.”

Time for action to improve waterways

The figures show that 71 per cent of bathing waters have received excellent bathing water status, compared to 72 per cent of bathing waters when last reported in 2019.

However, this only covers designated bathing waters – but just one stretch of river in England is currently designated as bathing water.

There are also legitimate concerns around the bathing water testing system itself, which only tests the water during the summer months and allows water samples to be discounted.

Reacting to the publication, Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said: “It is reassuring to hear the regulator talking openly about legal action against polluters.

“The scale of pollution entering our waterways has rightly shocked the public and it’s time for action to improve the health of all our waterways.”

Jane added: “We want to see more inland waters designated as bathing waters to increase the testing and help drive up water quality standards in those locations, giving swimmers more confidence to get in the water and enjoy the many benefits of swimming outdoors.”

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