October 7, 2016
'Burnham-On-Sea's sea quality could be hit if UV treatment is stopped'

Concerns have been raised this week that plans by Wessex Water to switch off UV treatment of sea water in Burnham over the winter to save money will adversely impact the town's sea water quality - just months after it was given a 'poor' rating by the EU.

Town councillors have this week reacted with dismay at the proposals by the water firm to save money by turning off UV treatment from the winter of 2017.

Burnham’s sea water quality was given a 'poor' rating earlier this year when stricter new EU bathing water quality standards came into force and efforts have been underway this year to try and improve Burnham's sea water quality.

The UV disinfection process is used to stop bacteria reproducing and it makes bathing water quality better to meet EU standards.

Town councillor Paul Young told this week's meeting: "Our sea water quality has already been downgraded - we can't risk it getting any worse with Wessex Water's plan to switch off UV treatment over the winter."

Cllr Andy Brewer added: "This is very significant. Turning off the UV treatment over the winter months is just ridiculous."

And Cllr Peter Burridge-Clayton added: "We cannot allow this to be switched off - it will negatively affect Burnham's sea water quality."

But, speaking to, Wessex Water's Compliance Director Matt Whealdon said this week: "UV plants at Highbridge and Huntspill are currently turned on all year-round but we are considering whether there are grounds to apply for seasonal permits from the Environment Agency to turn them off outside of the main bathing season."

He added that Wessex Water would save 460 mega watt hours of electricity that's currently used to power the plants over the winter along with over 270 tonnes of CO2 emmissions which, he says, "is our main driver."

"We are just as keen as the local council that Burnham meets the EU bathing water standards, however we need to look closely at how many people actually benefit from this UV treatment over the winter when no swimming or paddling takes place."

He said the firm "is all ears" on the matter and that no final decision has yet been made to switch off the UV treatment plants, adding: "We carried out a survey of sea water users in the Burnham-On-Sea area and had a very low response but we do still welcome feedback."

One Burnham windsurfer told "It's disgraceful the company is considering switching off UV treatment which would harm people like myself and fishermen who use the sea here all year-round."

It comes as work is underway by Litter Free Coast and Sea Somerset, Wessex Water, Sedgemoor District Council and the Environment Agency to try and improve the sea water quality in Burnham-On-Sea with various initiatives underway to improve the sea water quality.


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