It’s not for everyone, but jumping headlong into the freezing seawater is an increasingly popular party tradition for many.
Thousands of people will take to the country’s beaches this week, strip down and celebrate the season by taking a dip in the freezing water.
For some, it’s a great way to get rid of a Christmas hangover – for others, it’s an invigorating way to see the New Year.
But for a country that takes great pride in its beautiful coastlines, a disturbing truth lurks beneath the surface: UK waters have a poo problem.
While the vast majority of designated bathing waters are safe, eight bodies of water on the English coast are rated unsafe due to the amount of bacteria from raw sewage and other pollutants in the water.
As of December 2021, there were eight areas on the English coast where health officials have told people not to swim under any circumstances because they are contaminated with untreated sewage or runoff containing contaminants. chemicals from industrial or agricultural sites.
In Scotland, where environmental management is devolved, only one beach is considered ‘poor’, while none is in Wales or Northern Ireland.
Earlier this year, the campaign group Surfers Against Sewage has successfully put this issue on the agenda, calling on the government to end the practice of dumping sewage into natural water bodies in bad weather.
The government was forced to commit to pushing private water companies to act, but was accused of not going far enough or fast enough.
And to make matters worse, water quality data isn’t actually recorded outside of the summer months, which means it’s impossible for people to know exactly what you’re swimming in during the winter. .
A spokesperson for the Surfers Against Sewage campaign said bathing this time of year is a tradition “to be cherished”, but is threatened by poor water quality.
They told Metro.co.uk: “It is truly appalling that people need to check their local beach or river for pollution with raw sewage before a festive dip.
The beaches you really don’t want to go for a wild swim this holiday season
- Cullercoats Bay, North Tyneside
- Scarborough South Bay, North Yorkshire
- Clacton (Groyne 41), Essex
- Instow, North Devon
- Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, North Devon
- Combe Martin, North Devon
- Burnham Pier North, Somerset
- Weston-super-Mare Uphill Slipway, Somerset
“Government, industry and regulators must heed the public clamor for change and work to end wastewater pollution in the UK for good. Bountiful rivers and seas support thriving communities. ‘
Green Party colleague Jenny Jones called on the government to move forward to clean up the bathing water.
She said: ‘Boxing-day and New Year’s dip in the sea is a great British tradition that could be ruined by the experience of our coasts filled with sewage.
“I can only hope that the new legal obligation of water companies to gradually reduce pollution is enforced by a reluctant government and that future cuts will be both healthy and refreshing.”
A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: “While 93% of bathing water is classified as good or excellent – up from 28% in the 1990s – there is clearly a lot more to be done and we continue to do so. to work with everyone who wants to be part of the solution.
“We have increased transparency and monitoring of bathing water quality to address this issue and drive the improvements we all want to see.”
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