Water quality at beaches
Seaside Awards are presented to resort/rural beaches that are well managed with excellent facilities, with mandatory water quality. Blue Flag and seaside award resorts additionally have excellent water quality
Westward Ho! beach and Hartland Quay are consistently classified as excellent bathing waters. Sampling results taken by the Environment Agency are displayed at the access points to Westward Ho! beach and at Hartland Quay. The Environment Agency takes 20 samples from Westward Ho! beach and 5 samples from Hartland Quay during the bathing season (between May and September each year) and are tested for E.Coli and Intestinal Enterococci which are types of potentially harmful bacteria.
Bathing water quality can be influenced by various sources that include discharges from sewage treatment works or outfalls around our coast and from agricultural run-off. The EU Directive on Bathing Waters sets out water quality standards to protect the health of bathers.
A classification for each 'bathing water' is calculated annually based on samples from the previous four years. These classifications are, from best to worst:
- excellent - the cleanest bathing water
- 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 a sign will be displayed advising against bathing.
Incidents of 'foaming' at Westward Ho! beach and along the River Torridge - is it algae or sewage?
The Environment Agency says this type of foaming is a common event in many coastal areas of the South West and in the UK generally. In the case of Westward Ho! bay, various inputs such as nutrients from land run-off travelling to the bay by rivers can create the ideal environment for algae to grow. It may also grow in other areas and be carried many miles by tides and currents. Rough seas and strong winds increase the occurrence of marine foams on beaches too.
Algae may combine to form quite large clumps which are sometimes seen floating in the River Torridge or in the estuary. This material is often mistaken for sewage, but sampling has shown that it is definitely not. Although rather unsightly, the foam and deposits are not a risk to public health.