Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Economy and Environment): 4 October 2011


Report of the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services


Watch House Bay Water Quality


Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform Committee on the reasons why Watch House Bay water quality may have failed during 2010 and to outline action taken by the Council to address this failure


1.             T H A T Committee note the reasons why the water quality at Watch House Bay failed during 2010, and the actions undertaken by the Council to address the failure at this beach.

2.             THAT the report also be considered by the Housing and Public Protection Committee.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To enable the Committee to consider the possible reason why Watch House Bay water quality failed in 2010 and the actions the Council took to address the failure at this beach.

2.             For further consideration by the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee.


2.             This report has been prepared in response to a 'call in' from Cllr R Curtis.

3.             Designated beaches are parts of the sea or inland lakes in England and Wales that have been designated by the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) or the Welsh Government for people to swim in. These waters are then sampled by the Environment Agency to check the water quality and reported annually to Europe.

4.             Non designated beaches do not have the same status and sampling is not a statutory requirement. Watch House Bay is a non-designated beach.

5.             The Council's Public Protection Division, in partnership with Keep Wales Tidy, undertake pro-active sampling at non designated sites and in order to inform the public publishes the results for these locations via our public internet site.

6.             The samples are analysed for bacteria that indicate the presence of faecal pollution derived from humans or animals. Faecal pollution can contain viruses, parasites and bacteria (such as E.coli) that can cause illness if the water is swallowed.

7.             The main health problems linked to poor bathing water quality are gastrointestinal ailments (digestive tract), respiratory infections and ear, nose and throat complaints.

8.             Watch House Bay is part of the sampling programme undertaken by Public Protection.  A number of the sampling results for the bay in 2010 were assessed as Poor in line with EU bathing water regulations. Appendix 1 provides a summary of all the results for non-designated beaches sampled in the Council's area during 2010.

9.             Watch House Bay was recently included in to the Marine Conservation Society’s 2011 ‘failed beach guide’ as a result of the Council's sampling programme.

Relevant Issues and Options

10.        As a result of the Council's non- statutory sampling programme of non-designated beaches and the publishing of the results on the Council's website, the information was used by the Marine Conservation Society to identify a beach in Barry with poor bathing water quality.

11.        This sampling programme is currently under review and will be the subject of a separate report to Cabinet in due course.

12.        With regard to the Watch House Bay beach, investigations have been undertaken to determine the cause of the faecal contamination of both public and private drainage systems, watercourses and land drainage.  These have been undertaken by the Engineering Projects, Drainage Team of Visible Services supported by the Pollution Control Team in Public Protection.

13.        There are a number of storm sewage overflows and emergency overflows that discharge in to the Bay.  These are regulated by the Environment Agency via Discharge Consents.

14.        There is one Overflow of concern, which Council officers have noted discharges from the Harbour Road Storm Sewage Overflow (near Ship Hotel) during dry weather and other periods when there has not been heavy rain. This discharge point does not have telemetry (remote electronic surveillance) so it may not be possible for Welsh Water or the Environment Agency to identify exactly when it is used and whether this is within the agreed Discharge Consent. 

15.        There are two water courses that discharge into the Bay.  One runs through Romilly Park and another that runs from Birch Grove Wood and alongside the rail track. Pollution Control has sampled both streams on numerous occasions for bacteria indicative of sewage contamination. 

16.        The microbiological results indicated that the stream running through Birch Grove Wood has e.coli and coliforms present but not at a level to indicate a problem.  However, the results from the stream running through Romilly Park indicated a presence of high levels of e.coli and coliforms, indicating faecal contamination.

17.        From these results an investigation in to the source of this contamination has been undertaken.  This showed contamination in the private drains between Old Village Road and Romilly Park Road. However, CCTV surveys of the drain have failed to identify the actual source of contamination or any misconnections to enable enforcement action to be taken. 

18.        However, the CCTV survey of the surface water drains provided evidence of fracturing due to age and root penetration. It is thus possible that a leak in a main foul sewer has found a way to the surface water pipes, thus contaminating the water discharging to the stream. Investigations into these issues are ongoing.

19.        Water sampling of the Bay this year has shown the water quality to be Excellent in line with the EU bathing water regulations.  These results are summaries in Appendix 1

20.        Sampling of the bay will continue throughout this season.  This will provide evidence of whether there is an ongoing contamination issue or the results last year were an isolated incident and the source of contamination has been resolved.  At the time of the report, the water quality in the bay remains excellent indicating the contamination experience last year has been resolved.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

21.        The sampling and administration costs for 2 of the non designated beaches are met by Keep Wales Tidy.  The non-statutory sampling and administration cost for the remaining 3 beaches, plus officer time to sample all 5 beaches are met by the Public Protection team within the Council. The existing resources allocated for this work may not be sufficient should further efficiency savings be required by the Public Protection Division.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

22.        There is no statutory requirement for the Council to sample non-designated bathing areas.

Crime and Disorder Implications

23.        There are no implications to Crime and Disorder as a result of this report

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

24.        There are no implications on Equal Opportunities as a result of this report

Corporate/Service Objectives

25.        Corporate Plan, Improvement Objective 27; 'To protect and enhance the Vale’s natural and built environment'.

Policy Framework and Budget

26.        This report is for Scrutiny Committee consideration only.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

27.        Cllr Hunter Jarvie – Cabinet Member for Public Protection.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

28.        Housing and Public Protection

Background Papers



Contact Officer

Elen Probert, Principal Housing and Pollution Officer


Officers Consulted



Responsible Officer:

P H Evans, Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services