SEPA has released water quality ratings for beaches in South Ayrshire
Designated bathing waters in South Ayrshire have received a 'mixed bag' of quality standard classifications from the EU as the 2017 bathing water season begins.
The annual classifications set out whether water quality alone – not the overall beach environment – is poor, sufficient, good or excellent, and therefore suitable for bathing, based on four years' of monitoring data.
For 2016, Culzean, Girvan, Maidens, Prestwick and Troon (South Beach) all achieved the much stricter European water quality standards introduced in 2015 – an improvement for Girvan and Prestwick, which were previously designated as poor, but a reduction in classification for Culzean and Troon.
Culzean and Maidens were classified as 'good', while Girvan, Prestwick and Troon (South Beach) were all rated as 'sufficient'. This means they are suitable for bathing during the official bathing season, which runs from June to September.
However, bathing waters at Ayr (South Beach) – which was rated as sufficient last year – and Heads of Ayr have been classified as poor.
This means the electronic signage put in place by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Council at these two locations will advise against bathing when the real-time water quality is assessed as poor.
At Ayr (South Beach), work is underway by SEPA and Scottish Water to try and determine the sources of pollution entering the bathing waters with a view to reducing or eliminating their impact. Water quality deteriorates at this site after heavy rainfall and it is also affected by a number of different sources, including agricultural, and a detailed action plan is in place to address this.
Heads of Ayr bathing water is affected by sewage and agricultural sources, and that water quality deteriorates after heavy rainfall. A private investment program is being delivered by the local caravan park to upgrade the site drainage. Other potential pollution sources within the catchment have also been investigated and some improvement of Scottish Water assets may be required.
In addition, SEPA is preparing tailored improvement plans to help ensure all bathing waters meet at least the 'sufficient' standard by 2020.
Mike Newall, South Ayrshire Council's Head of Neighbourhood Services, said: "This really is a mixed bag of results for South Ayrshire. While we're very proud of our beaches and encouraged by the fact that five of our seven sites have achieved the stringent water quality standards – which is one more than last year – I am disappointed that bathing water quality has been classified as poor in two locations.
"However, the action being taken by SEPA and others to address the pollution issues is very encouraging and I would hope to see a marked improvement in future years.
"We can all do our bit to help too by respecting the beach environment and those using it. Simple things like not encouraging groups of seagulls to gather by feeding them, cleaning up dog waste and disposing of your litter appropriately really can make a difference.
"In the meantime, our beaches remain fantastic places to visit and we advise all visitors to check the water quality signage and follow any advice given."