Testing the Water: Understanding Microbial Pollution at the Beach



The DHW team ran a public engagement event via the Café Scientifique forum in February 2013. David Oliver, Richard Quilliam, Andy Cummins and Jonathan Porter discussed bathing water quality and beach signage information with an audience of 60 café-goers at the Phoenix Bar in Exeter.

 Exeter was chosen as the venue given its longstanding hosting of café Scientifique events and because over a quarter of bathing waters in England are located in the South West.

 The evening provided a chance to share information and research findings to members of the public. It also served as an opportunity to capture the views of those interested in the subject area and answer questions on bathing water quality and information. The event generated lively discussion and a real buzz of chatter resonated through the Phoenix bar during the interval when members of the team were able to engage with the audience on a more personal level. The number of attendees and ‘standing room only’ for late arrivals was testament to local interest in bathing water quality given the event was run on a rather cold February evening, outside of the official bathing season!

The questions asked by the audience were thought provoking and are listed below as a resource for those interested in public understanding and perceptions of bathing water quality and information:

  1. What does good bathing water quality mean? What does it mean to me?
  2. Has our involvement with the EU helped improve our water quality and if we leave the EU what will happen to the water quality?
  3. Why don’t we have a system whereby water quality can be shown on the TV via the weather, like done for pollen counts in the summer?
  4. Is sewage treatment consistent across the world?
  5. Doesn’t the sewage get treated before it enters the sea?
  6. What influence does the tide and other environmental factors have on bathing water quality?
  7. Can you explain the value of classifying bathing water quality over 4 years instead of 1?
  8. You haven’t mentioned algal blooms, what about these?
  9. How likely am I to get ill really, what about my grandchildren?
  10. Why don’t we have regional labs for bathing water analysis in England?
  11. If we just banned bathing at certain beaches could we then pump sewage out with less treatment?

2 Comments to “Testing the Water: Understanding Microbial Pollution at the Beach”

  1. This was a great opportunity for everyone present to have a better understanding of microbial pollution at the beach. I hope they would come up with more of this events.

  2. I hope we can have the same forum in our area. We all need to understand microbial pollution at the beach. We all need to become aware of how it will affect us when we take this problem for granted.

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