This is notice of a formal request – in line with DEFRA policy and guidelines (https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bathing-waters) – to designate the Devon Avon estuary (Avon GB 510804606000 -Transitional Water) as a site requiring microbiological testing during the period May to September under the Bathing Waters Directive.
The estuary is increasingly used for recreational purposes, including swimming and boating by enthusiasts, schools, tourists, etc., (see http://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/events/?id=112 & http://www.singingpaddles.co.uk/Specialist%20Paddling%20Courses%20in%20South%20Devon.htm) yet is subject to 10 permitted sewage by-passes per year from the Aveton Gifford sewage works and is exposed to unmonitored effluent from many other sources – including sewerage system failures in the village of Aveton Gifford. Between Loddiswell and Bantham there are many known discharge points for domestic sewage systems into the River Avon, licensed but not routinely monitored by the Environment Agency (EA). Other systems are so ancient that they pre-date the need for a license and may not even feature in the EA records. Many of these private systems are subject to highly variable seasonal loading and consequent failure during the main (May-September) tourist season when the local population explodes in number. In addition, this popular, recreational water receives the agricultural run-off from many farms in the lower part of the Devon Avon catchment. The downstream oyster fishery, which is routinely monitored under the Shellfish Waters Directive, has recently been closed due to microbiological contamination.
The water in the upper Avon estuary, near the Timbers car park, is at particular risk of microbiological contamination but the nearest microbiological testing points for bathing waters are at Bantham and Bigbury, at the estuary mouth. No ‘Beach Live’ alerting system to warn the public of microbiological hazards is operational despite requests to South West Water to implement such a system, for example, by the use of local community websites. Furthermore, there is no easily accessible warning about the potential health risks arising from exposure to the river water in the area.