ENVIRONMENT Agency officials say they are working to help Burnham beach meet strict new bathing water regulations which come into effect next year.

Water companies, councils and residents are running out of time to ensure Burnham beach does not get rated 'poor' - with signs put up advising people not to go in the sea – when the EU Bathing Water Directive comes into effect in 2015.

EA bathing water monitoring teams have begun taking samples across the South West every week until the end of September, taking nearly 4,000 samples from 194 bathing waters.

The samples are used to assess the water quality at the beaches and identify and investigate sources of pollution, so the EA can work with others to improve bathing water quality.

Jonathan Ponting from the EA said: “With only a year to go until our bathing waters need to meet tighter standards, everyone has a part to play in improving bathing water quality.

“We are focusing on those beaches which might struggle to meet the new targets.

“We are working with water companies, local authorities and farmers to identify and tackle sources of pollution so beaches meet the new standards, and the seaside tourist economy in the South West of England continues to thrive.”

As reported, Burnham’s beach has already been given a mediocre rating for its water quality according to the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Beach Guide 2014, sparking “great concern” from Mayor of Burnham, Martin Cox.

He told the Weekly News: “We welcome any initiatives which will help us meet the standards and combat pollution, which mainly comes from the rivers that link to the sea.

“There’s no easy fix and we will seek what funding we can get from grants.”

The Directive introduces a new classification scheme where beaches will be rated as excellent, good, sufficient or poor. All bathing waters need to achieve a classification of at least ‘sufficient’.

For more information visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk/bathingwaters.

Poor bathing water quality can be caused by a number of sources. People take measures to prevent several forms of pollution. These include:

Know your drains: Some pollution is caused by incorrect plumbing, resulting in dirty water from homes and businesses draining into rivers and streams and then into the sea. Check your plumbing is correct. More information on  www.connectright.org.uk

Cooking fats: Cooking fats, oils and greases can block drains and cause sewage to overflow into roads, streams and rivers. People are asked not to pour fats down the sink and use fat traps.

Drains: Think about what you put down external drains. Anything emptied down a drain in your driveway or by the side of the road, for example, dirty car water, paints, and motor oils, will end up in the river, sea and on the beach.

Rivers: The river and its banks should not be used to dump litter, dog mess or garden waste.

Farming: Where possible try and prevent animals from crossing, drinking and standing in rivers and streams. The EA are also helping farmers to understand their soils and the problems associated with poor soil structure causing runoff, erosion, pollution and flooding. The EA can also signpost farmers to further sources of help, advice and funding to reduce these problems.

Pigeons or seagulls: Birds congregating in greater numbers can increase the amount of bird fouling that gets washed into the sea.  The EA is concerned about flocks of birds roosting near the beach, for example breakwaters or piers, which then impact on bathing water quality. Do not feed these birds.

Dog fouling: Pick up after your dog as this can have a significant effect on bathing water quality.