The annual survey of the state of Scotland’s bathing waters, due to be unveiled by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) this week, will show that contamination from human and animal faeces this summer has been worse than last year.
The two dirtiest beaches were at Heads of Ayr in South Ayrshire and Lunan Bay in Angus, which suffered so much pollution that they failed to meet basic sewage safety limits introduced 38 years ago. Last year, no beaches in Scotland breached these limits.
But this year three samples of water at Heads of Ayr in May and August contained levels of toxic E-coli bacteria in breach of the legal limits. According to Sepa, this was because heavy rain caused “sewer overflows” and washed animal wastes from farmland and urban areas.
Another two beaches – Irvine in North Ayrshire and Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders – also recorded five sample failures between them. But four of these are liable to be discounted because they were correctly predicted by electronic warning signs at the beaches.
Ten other beaches in Ayrshire, Argyll, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Angus, Moray and Highland had single water samples that failed the safety limits this summer (see table below). The contamination from bacteria and viruses can cause ear and stomach infections and, in extreme cases, be fatal.