Washing machines blamed for dirty sea

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WHAT’S making Blackpool’s sea so dirty? Well, the answer could be as close as your bathroom.

A massive Environment Agency investigation has revealed badly plumbed washing machines and toilets in households and businesses across the Fylde coast are pumping a constant stream of bacteria into the area’s water ways.

The problem is so big they found up to 400 examples of it in rivers and streams across the region – and now the team needs to tackle them all to clean up the sea.

The water at Blackpool and St Annes has been slammed in recent months after failing to meet minimum standards for cleanliness.

Sam Billington, the Environment Agency’s bathing water project manager, said: “Pipes (from appliances) link off into the wrong sewage system. The pipes should be draining normal, fresh water from the rain but someone’s put the wrong pipe in – a misconnection – so a toilet could be going into fresh water.

“On the Fylde Coast we found 300 to 400 problems.

“They’re fairly innocuous to look at, but when there’s another 300 the cumulative effect is quite significant.

“There are so many similar issues people sometime think what’s the point of fixing one, but if you clean up 300 it will have a real impact.”

Mr Billington pointed out a stream alongside Poulton Industrial Estate – which flows into the River Wyre – as a classic problem, with dirty water from the industrial estate flowing into the stream along with agricultural run-off from cow muck in a neighbouring field.

Despite the stream’s distance from the sea, Mr Billington said bacteria can survive for up to 10km.

The project to assess rivers and streams across the North West has cost the Environment Agency £400,000 though the remedial work is set to cost a lot more.

Mr Billington said: “It’s going to be an ongoing thing to deal with all the issues we’ve found through this project. By 2015 our aim is to have all bathing water meeting the standard. It involves everyone – it’s about communities mitigating what they’ve done and property owners looking for misconnections.”

If bathing water doesn’t meet the new, stricter, European bathing water directive by 2015 it will be closed to swimmers.

The Fylde Peninsula Water Management Group – which involves the Environment Agency alongside Fylde, Blackpool and Wyre Councils and United Utilities – has been set up to tackle the problem.

For information on checking for misconnections log on to www.unitedutilities.com.