Reports of Sewage Pollution at Blackpool Sands
On 3rd April several national newspapers carried extensive reports about Blue Flag beaches affected by discharges of sewage into the sea. Blackpool Sands was said to be the worst affected in the country, with 63 spills during 2022, lasting a total of 1,014 hours.
The reports were based on a document published by the Liberal Democrat Party, said to be based on information from the Environment Agency. South West Water denied any responsibility, saying that the pollution could have come from a number of sources (e.g. agricultural) other than their pumping station at Stoke Fleming. The Parish Council has been making enquiries with the Environment Agency in order to establish the truth of the matter.
It took a month to obtain a response, which was received on 5th June and included the following:
“Blackpool Sands in South Devon has been classed as Excellent from 2018 onwards. In the last ten years the highest intestinal enterococci (I.E) is 64 and the highest E.coli is 127. Average I.E in that time is 11 and average E. Coli is 12.6 which is exceptionally clean.
“The reports in the newspapers pertain to Stoke Fleming Pumping Station which did spill 63 times in 2022, total 1014.27 hours of spill. The discharge point is just over 1km from Blackpool Sands. However, when sampled the bathing water quality is clean, therefore showing that the performance of this asset is not affecting the bathing water quality. This asset has a bathing water Event Duration Monitor which records spills frequency and which data is reported against Blackpool sands, this just ensures we receive the spills data annually and within the bathing water season.”
In other words the Liberal Party report on which the newspaper reports were based was inaccurate. There had been spills from the pumping station despite what South West Water had said, but these had no effect whatsoever on bathing water quality at the beach. It would appear that the authors of the report made an incorrect assumption that any discharge from the pumping station would affect the beach.
In view of the importance of the beach to the community I thought the “all clear” that the beach has been given should be made known to the public.