13th April 2022 - BCP Cabinet Meeting
BeachPeople attended the meeting with the intention of drawing cabinet-wide consensus on whether all departments within the Council support the designation of Whitley Lake as a bathing water
We had tabled the following question:
"BeachPeople are campaigning to have Whitely Lake (aka Kite Beach), Sandbanks harbour-side, designated by Defra as a Bathing Water.
This would mean that the Environment Agency will sample the water for E. Coli and Enterococci* twenty times per bathing season (from mid-May to September inc.)
Whitley Lake would then become the only sample point downstream of the large number of CSOs** in Holes Bay, source of the vast majority of sewage pollution in the Harbour.
Do any of the council departments, in particular Destination and Culture, have any objections to BeachPeople’s campaign, and if so, what are those objections?
* E. Coli and Enterococci are signifiers that harmful pathogens from sewage may be present in the water and therefore it is unsafe to swim. The EA will sample for these. BeachPeople currently do, using a mix of their own lab equipment and commercial testing facilities for confirmation of accuracy.
** a CSO is a Combined Sewage Outfall where treated sewage is discharged along with occasional discharges of raw sewage mixed with rainfall. "
This was the response from Cllr Mark Anderson:
"I would like to thank .. BeachPeople for this question and their determination to get the Whitely Lake/Kite Beach designated as a bathing water site.
I've discussed this issue with seafront staff from Destination and Culture and regulatory officer's and as the portfolio holder covering Seafront Operations, I'm happy to support your request.
However, we are not intending to update or provide additional facilities in this area. As this is not land owned or managed by BCP Council, we are however conscious of its popularity and use and would support improvements.
As I know [BeachPeople have] concerns about water quality as I do, I thought it useful to let [them] know that I have written to all the BCP MPs and recently had a meeting with the local MPs about the water quality in the area.
The focus of the meeting was on sewage outflows and the work BCP Council has been doing with various agencies to address this.
The aim was also to raise awareness with MPs and to focus on the impact on our Harbour / Shellfish industry. Sewage and the quality of our beaches was also discussed along with issues associated with people seeing foul surface water (mistakenly perceived as sewage) floating across beaches."
Since this was a publically recorded meeting this is very positive news as it represents official council policy that should not then be changed during the consultation period this year, so we can count this as a firm step forward.
SAS Report 2021
The Surfers Against Sewage Report was released in November 2021 - it's a comprehensive PDF document running to 31 pages that can be downloaded directly from the SAS website here.
Since we are only focusing on Poole Harbour, we are therefore only concerned with Wessex Water which has been helpful in providing data and has contested SAS' findings both in the 2021 report and its predecessor.
One area of concern that BeachPeople raised with Wessex Water on December 9th 2021 was the apparent doubling in number of discharges and notifications by Wessex Water over the last year as these images from the report highight:
BeachPeople queried the rise in both discharges and discharge notifications in this exchange with Dave Joned of Wessex Water (edited for brevity)
BeachPeople - As you probably know the SAS 2021 Water Quality Report has been published and there are a couple of areas I feel Wessex Water should be provided the opportunity to explain, so could you please let us know why the total number of discharges and notifications rose significantly during 2021 compared to 2019 and 2020?
Total discharges seem to have doubled based on fig 4, whereas several other water company's discharges have reduced - why is that?
Dave Jones, Wessex Water -We have had discussions with SAS in advance of the publication of their report on how they are using our data and we were disappointed that some of the data included remains misleading. SAS produce their report based on the ‘notification alerts’ they receive from us. Unfortunately, this data can be misleading as the alerts do not always reflect storm overflow use and there can also be false alarms triggered by wildlife or mobile communication issues.
There is also a problem with data in the report when comparing total number of notifications:
We provide SAS with data for all beaches and many amenity waters; and we provide this data all year around, which other water companies don’t. It means we are shown as having a high number of notifications and so skews company comparisons. We’re effectively shown negatively and penalised in the report for being the most transparent in providing SAS with a comprehensive data set.
We worked with the Environment Agency to establish the overflows of most concern, and for how long they should be allowed to discharge before an alert is issued. We have no visibility of how other companies have carried out this task, however. If the methods are significantly different between companies, then again, comparisons are not valid.
In addition to the above, the number of assets fitted with Event Duration Monitoring is being increased in line with the goal of fitting all required assets by 2023. As more EDM monitors come online each year, the total number of assets monitored and the number of discharges which occur will inevitably increase year on year until all assets are fitted, at which point variability is likely to be driven more by weather related factors.
Every now and then an organisation will send out an official or full response (rather than the more common emails that bounce to and fro to exchange detailed information) - the two main players in the pollution of Poole Harbour with untreated human sewage are Wessex Water and HMG.
Here are their most recent positions, sent around the time that the Sewage Bill was being bonced back and forth between the Houses of Commons & Lords.
Separately but still of interest is the Envronment agency's explanation as to why they ceased sampling the water entirely during 2020
BeachPeople Sponsors' Area
BeachPeople Sponsors contribute towards the costs of the regular, year-round testing of the water in Whitley Lake (aka Kite Beach, Sandbanks) for the presence of E. Coli and Enterococci (indicators of the presence of fecal material in water and, therefore of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa).
Sponsors who are able to contribute over a certain amount gain free full club membership (bearing in mind that the club is adults only) as well as access to a private 'Sponsors' area on the site that contains the non-published data such as detailed sample results, email communications with third parties and the sewage project announcements & updates (the information does remain confidential within the project and is not for sharing outside of the Sponsors group).
If you would like to contribute towards the costs of testing the water at Whitley Lake for sewage pollution throughout 2022 here's a PayPal link to do just that, either as a one-off donation or monthly.
Map showing the location of Whitley Lake relative to the ebb tidal flow from the 20+ sewage outfalls in Holes Bay
Response from Wessex Water
Sent Novermber 3rd 2021 by Ruth Barden, Wessex Water and reproduced in full without amendment
Thanks for your email and I am pleased that you have found the site visits and information useful.
There has been increasing public awareness, media campaigns and Parliamentary interest in storm overflows in recent weeks and the options for improvement. Wessex Water is actively engaged in this work, particularly to understand the impact of our assets from both an environmental and public health perspective, and to ensure that any investment in improvements is sustainable.
As you know, we are currently investigating the impact of our assets in Poole Harbour, understanding both nutrient and bacteriological contributions, and comparing these with other sources, to understand where future investment may be required to address this. The findings of these investigations will inform our next Business Plan which will be submitted to Ofwat in summer 2023. More information can be found here: 9797.pdf (wessexwater.co.uk)
Any additional sampling and data collected is always very valuable in understanding the environmental condition of the Harbour and water quality. We are working closely with BCP, the EA and other stakeholders to share water quality data where available to improve our collective knowledge and understand the actions which each organisation can take to enable improvements.
Wessex Water supports the aspiration for recreational users to apply for designated status of bathing waters where there is the demand and criteria are met. There are already a number of designated sites within Poole Harbour, both as bathing waters or shellfish waters, and we work will all relevant parties to enable good communication and sharing of data to support these designations.
Storm overflows have always been part of the sewerage network in the UK because the majority of sewers carry both rainwater and foul sewage and they prevent properties from flooding following intense rainfall. We are now getting more intense rainfall storms due to climate change, so this means the frequency of overflow operations will increase.
There are only two possible approaches to eliminating overflows; separation to stop stormwater entering the combined sewer, or constructing large storage tanks, which would have significant carbon consequences, cost billions and would be hugely disruptive.
We need Government to change legislation so developers cannot connect surface water to combined sewers which is making the matter worse. There is also the need for water companies to be able to release rainwater only directly into a watercourse.
Ofwat, the economic regulator, needs to prioritise investment, which it tightly controls to keep bills down, so water companies can get on and help solve the problem.
Since 2000 Wessex Water has invested £181m to improve nearly 600 storm overflows across the region, with a further £150m set aside for improvements between 2020 and 2025.