Updated:
October 14, 2014
Wessex Water unveils £39m project to improve Burnham sea water

Over £39 million has been pledged by Wessex Water to improving sea water quality in Burnham, it emerged this week.

The company has pledged the funding for the area after a meeting with South West Member of the European Parliament Julie Girling, right, this week.

The MEP met Wessex Water and the Environment agency to discuss sea water quality concerns in Burnham-On-Sea.

The meeting, called by Mrs Girling to discuss the European Bathing Water Directive and related matters, sought to identify what progress Wessex Water and the Environment Agency are making to improve the water quality at Burnham in light of standards for water quality being increased by the European Parliament.

Burnham was recently named as one of 45 UK seaside towns where sea swimming could be banned due to the introduction of the new EU rules which are twice as stringent as those currently in force.

It is feared that the swimming ban may hurt the local tourism industry unless more is done to offset the ban, as reported here.

Following the meeting, Mrs Girling told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "I visited Wessex Water to find out what they are doing to ensure that the Burnham community will have access to a clean beach and bathing water, not just for their own enjoyment but also for the visitors who are so vital to the economy."

"They explained their comprehensive investment programme and the work they are doing to ensure combined sewer overflows and treatment works which lead into the Burnham jetty area are appropriately managed to prevent an inappropriate bacterial load being released into the area."

She added: "Wessex Water are also working with the local community to ensure illegal connections are prevented where possible and agricultural run-off is kept to a minimum."

"The simple fact remains that, because of the water industry's investment cycle, these steps are coming about a year too late, but this is what we have to work with and I'm happy that they have speeded up as far as possible. I will continue to work closely with Wessex Water on this matter to ensure Burnham receives the priority it deserves."

Wessex Water says it is committed to spending £39m on sewerage infrastructure improvements within the area which will contribute to an improvement in water quality.

These measures include increasing storage in the sewerage network to reduce the frequency of spills from combined sewer overflows, providing ultraviolet disinfection at more sewage treatment works and a large overflow, and working with public authorities, businesses and communities to reduce the amount of rainwater entering the sewerage network and reducing its capacity.

Matt Wheeldon, Wastewater Strategy Manager at Wessex Water, said: "We have an ambitious plan to deliver these projects within a tight timescale which will help to improve bathing water quality at Burnham Jetty. As a company we have a longer term vision to remove rainwater from our sewers within this area but we recognise that this needs the cooperation of a wide range of people from local councils to businesses and individual householders."

The latest talks come after a Burnham meeting in July between Mrs Girling, James Heappey, Conservative candidate, local business and council representatives to discuss how to tackle the issue, as reported here.

Burnham-On-Sea's MP Tessa Munt is also discussing the matter with Wessex Water and government bodies in a bid to try and help.

Tessa is very supportive of the joint approach taken by Wessex Water and the Environment Agency but is keen to see everyone doing their part. She said: "It is vital that every one of us contributes towards improving the quality of the bathing water at Burnham Jetty rather than just relying on these two organisations to solve the problem. Small actions such as checking our toilets and washing machines are connected to the sewer and not the surface water drain, picking up dog mess and not flushing wet wipes down the loo all help to improve the water quality at our local beaches."

Jim Flory, Environment Manager at the Environment Agency, added: "The EA has been working to identify and address possible sources of pollution that could affect bathing water quality. This is a very large catchment with many complex and contributing factors such as agricultural and road runoff; illegally connected drains; dog fouling and seaguls, as well as the contributions from sewage treatment works and overflows."

 


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