New bathing water classifications for South Ayrshire beaches
Designated bathing waters at Ayr (South Beach), Culzean, Maidens and Troon (South Beach) have all achieved much stricter, European water quality standards, introduced for the first time this year.
The four beaches were classified as 'excellent' (Culzean), 'good' (Maidens and Troon (South Beach)), and 'sufficient' (Ayr (South Beach)), and are suitable for bathing during the bathing season, which runs from June to September.
However, due to the much tighter water quality standards in the new system – which uses four years of monitoring data to provide a more consistent picture of water quality – bathing waters at Girvan, Heads of Ayr and Prestwick have been classified as 'poor'.
This means signage will now be displayed at these three locations by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and South Ayrshire Council advising people against bathing.
In addition, a new electronic sign, providing daily real-time water quality information will be installed at Heads of Ayr.
SEPA is preparing tailored improvement plans to help bathing waters meet at least the 'sufficient' standard by 2020. The issues identified at the three 'poor' South Ayrshire locations are:
SEPA suspects that rural sewerage may be an issue in this catchment, and extensive sampling will take place to better understand the sources of pollution causing the poor classification. Following this, consideration will be given to installing an electronic bathing water sign that will predict the water quality on a daily basis. Girvan is included in the second cycle of SEPA's priority catchment work to reduce sources of rural diffuse pollution from land use activities.
Heads of Ayr -
Work undertaken by SEPA indicates that Heads of Ayr bathing water is affected by sewage and agricultural sources, and that water quality deteriorates after heavy rainfall. There has been a multi-million pound private investment to improve the sewage treatment works serving the nearby holiday park, which has brought about a marked improvement for 2016. Heads of Ayr is included in SEPA's priority catchment programme.
SEPA studies indicate that the water quality at Prestwick is affected by sewage and agricultural sources. Prestwick bathing water sits within the North Ayrshire Coastal priority catchment area. Improvement work within this catchment started in 2010 and is currently ongoing.
Mike Newall. South Ayrshire Council's Head of Neighbourhood Services, said: "We're very proud of our beaches in South Ayrshire and welcome the news that four of our bathing water locations have achieved the much stricter standards for water quality.
"It is, of course, concerning that three locations have been classified as 'poor'. However, we know what the issues are – which are often related to the impact of heavy rainfall – and I'm encouraged by the actions being taken by SEPA and its partners.
"While the classification does mean we need to advise people against bathing in these locations, they are still great places to visit, and even have a paddle, over the summer and we'll continue to do all we can to support the work underway to improve bathing water quality across South Ayrshire."