The “Sewage Scandal” in North Devon

I sent a letter to the editor of the North Devon Gazette yesterday. I reproduce it below, but with the addition of some graphics and hyperlinks.

Dear Editor,

As an ageing “silver” surfer off the north coast of the West Country I read Ella Sampson’s article “Sewage spill alerts issued for North Devon beaches” with great interest. I follow such matters closely for personal health reasons! By way of explanation for my concerns, the most recent sewage “spill” at Woolacombe lasted a grand total of 10 days:

Ella didn’t mention the beach at Lynmouth in her article, where competent surfers of all ages go to shelter from strong south-westerly winds. However escaping the pollution is more difficult. The most recent activation of the Basket Shop pumping station ended on January 4th after 4 days:

In her article “The ‘sewage scandal’ is NOT what is happening in North Devon” North Devon MP Selaine Saxby mentioned “the vital role that the tourism and hospitality sector play to our economy in North Devon.” Selaine also stated that “far too many people now visiting our beautiful beaches are fearful of the sea, despite eight of the 11 bathing beaches in North Devon being of excellent water quality.”

Several North Devon bathing beaches may be listed as benefiting from “excellent water quality”, but water sampling rarely takes place during the operation of one of South West Water’s many combined sewer overflows (CSO). For Selaine’s information one such event recently occurred in Shaldon on the south coast of Devon, which is also classified as “excellent” by the Environment Agency (EA). During routine testing last July over 2,000 colonies of Escherichia coli (EC) bacteria per 100 ml were found in a water sample:

A similar level of Intestinal Enterococci (IE) pollution was also detected:

The so called “sewage scandal” is getting worse, not better. If so desired I can put Selaine in touch with climate scientists at the Met Office in Exeter, who could explain to her how “global warming” leads to increased precipitation in our part of the world:

Perhaps Selaine would care to demonstrate her confidence in the EA’s testing regime by going bodyboarding in the North Atlantic the next time the swell is onshore and the wind offshore at Woolacombe, in the midst of a multi-day activation of the local pumping station overflow? I would be more than happy to film her exertions for posterity, from the safety of the shore.

Yours etc.,

Jim Hunt

I've been programming computers since the late 60s. In those days they didn't have computers in schools, so we had to build our own. What can I program next? Will I have to build it first?

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