The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) [1] is urging the UK

Government and EU Member States to support and take forward recent proposals

from the European Commission on a new Bathing Water Policy [2].

MCS believes that the Bathing Water Conference next week in Brussels, during

European Green Week, is a real opportunity to protect both the public from sewage

contamination and the environment.

Although the present Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) has been a valuable

instrument in driving improvements in water quality across Europe, it is now

widely considered to be outdated and inadequate. An original proposal for a

revision began in 1994 to revise the Directive; but this was never adopted,

due to scientific, technical and political reasons and has now been repealed.

MCS wants to make sure this does not happen again and urges all European Government's

to support the Commission's new proposal. MCS believes it is vital that the

present and next EU Presidency to take the proposals forward and don't lose

this opportunity.

"The Marine Conservation Society has campaigned for the last 14 year's

for a revision to the existing Bathing Water Directive and has responded to

the recent proposals from the EC to develop a new Bathing Water Policy fit for

the 21st Century", said Kate Hutchinson, Coastal Pollution Officer. "MCS

is delighted these proposals include raising the water quality standards and

better provision of public information, so everyone can make an informed choice

about where and whether to bathe."

MCS strongly supports many of the Commission's proposals - the main elements

of which are;

· Greater emphasis on provision of better information to the public,

so they can make an 'informed choice' about where, and whether, to bathe

· A shift from bathing water quality monitoring to bathing water quality

management to increase understanding and control of local land use and agricultural

pollution sources, thereby taking account of all potential contamination and

pollution sources

· Tightening of the water quality standards in line with current scientific

thinking, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization [3]

· Definition of bathing areas and bathing itself, which if interpreted

properly would protect nearly all recreational users (divers, surfers etc.)

across Europe

· With the introduction of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) (200/60/EEC)

[4] covering environmental and ecological standards, the revised Bathing

Water Directive will focus on health standards but will be closely co-coordinated

with the WFD and its principles.

MCS is hoping that a final optimistic proposal can be outlined at next week's

the conference to protect the public and the environment for the future and

ensure a Bathing Water Policy fit for the 21st Century.

Editors Notes:

[1] The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is one of the UK's

most respected environmental groups. It seeks to protect the marine environment

for both wildlife and future generations by promoting its sustainable and environmentally

sensitive management. MCS believes in working through persuasion and effecting

change based on sound factual evidence.

Prevention of pollution of the marine and coastal environment from sewage,

litter and toxic chemicals has always been a major focus for MCS. The aim of

the MCS 'Campaign for Clean Seas' is to improve the quality of UK coastal waters

by reducing the input of pollutants that harm human health and marine life.

The Good Beach Guide is published every year as part of the MCS Campaign for

Clean Seas, which is sponsored this year by Cheltenham & Gloucester and

the Crown Estate.

[2] In December 2000, the European Commission published a

'Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on Developing a new

Bathing Water Policy'. This initiated an open consultation exercise inviting

comments from interested parties by March 1st 2001. The consultation exercise

will culminate in a Bathing Water Conference in Brussels on the 24th - 26th

April. Comments made on the Communication and during the conference will be

incorporated into a draft Proposal for adoption by the Commission.

[3] Under the existing Directive there are two water quality standards for

coastal waters, the Mandatory and Guideline standards. The Mandatory standard

is the minimum legal standard set in the Directive. The Mandatory standard is

based on levels of faecal and total coliforms, which indicate the presence of

pollution from human sewage or livestock faeces. When a beach is declared pass

or fail it is the Mandatory standard that is referred to. There is now increasing

scientific evidence which shows that these microbiological standards are not

stringent enough to minimise the risk of contracting a serious illness. The

Guideline standard is 20 times higher than the Mandatory standard and also tests

for faecal streptococci.

Most studies have identified faecal streptococci as an indicator organism which

correlates most closely with health risks in coastal waters. The World Health

Organization (WHO) released proposed guidelines for recreational waters in 1998

in which WHO proposed Intestinal Enterococci, a derivative of Faecal Streptococci,

as the best indicator of microbiological contamination for coastal waters. These

underwent pier review last week and the recommendations for standard levels

will be given at the Bathing Water Conference.

[4] The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EEC) entered into

force on the 22 December 2000. EU member states must now transpose the law into

national legislation by 22 December 2003, by which time they must have identified

competent authorities responsible for meeting environmental objectives for river

basin districts. The Directive's overarching objective of achieving good status

for all surface and groundwater will have to be achieved by December 2015. Countries

will have to "take account" of the principle of recovery of costs

of water services so that by 2010 there are "adequate" incentives

for efficient resource use. All polluting discharges must be controlled under

a combined approach of best available techniques and emission limit values,

as well as best environmental practices for diffuse pollution, by December 2012.

For more information or a copy of the MCS response to the EC Communication

Bathing Water please contact -

Kate Hutchinson - Coastal Pollution Officer

Sam Pollard - Director of Conservation

Marine Conservation Society, 9 Gloucester Road, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR9

5BU

Tel: 01989 566017 Fax: 01989 567815 Mobile: 07776 204595