Swimming in sewage: Warning issued as 23 Cornish beaches are polluted with sewage


More than 20 beaches in Cornwall should be avoided by swimmers due to releases of raw sewage, according to data analysed by a charity.

Surfers Against Sewage says 23 beaches in the Duchy are unsafe for swimming, due to untreated human waste being released into the sea as a result of heavy rain.

The Cornwall-based group use data from water and sewage treatment companies to monitor pollution levels.

It has now placed warnings on nearly two dozen beaches in the county, which are used to indicate when sewage outflows have pumped out into the water in the past 48 hours.

In all 23 cases, the situation has been made worse - or been caused - by heavy rain causing overflow pipes to be used.

In response, a spokesperson for South West Water said: “Stormwater overflows are legal and tightly regulated by the Environment Agency through a system of permits.

"They are seen as doing a necessary and very important job – protecting people’s homes and workplaces from being flooded with sewage during heavy rainstorms.

“As rainfall has become more severe due to climate change, with more people, buildings, highways, agricultural and industrial practises, our sewers and water pipes are being used to capacity – resulting in an increasing frequency of the use of overflows.

“This shouldn’t be confused with an increase in the pollution of the environment. Any overflow was carefully designed to limit the resulting impact on the environment.” 

But Surfers Against Sewage says these are the beaches swimmers might still want to avoid:

Sennen

This beach is one of the most western points of Cornwall and has an emergency sewer overflow point from Sennen pumping station nearby.

Raw sewage is often discharged from this point following heavy rainfall.

Sennen experiencing rough seas last winter. Credit: Chris Barnard

Porthminster Beach, St Ives

This port beach, right near St Ives town centre, has an emergency outflow pipe near to it.

People have previously fallen ill after swimming in the sea at Porthminster beach. Credit: ITV News West Country

Carbis Bay

This beach was graced by global leaders including US President Joe Biden and the UK's Boris Johnson earlier in the year.

But now, it has sewage flowing into the sea nearby through an outflow pipe in the Hayle River mouth, according to the charity.

Carbis Bay beach.

Hayle Beach - Godrevy and Gwithian Towans

Surfers Against Sewage is advising people not to swim at both parts of the northern end of the beach, which starts in Hayle to the south.

It says sewage is being pumped into the Red River.

Lifeguards stationed at Gwithian Beach. Credit: RNLI

Porthtowan

This rocky and sandy beach should be avoided due to outflows upstream, according to the campaigners.

Seals are sometime released back into the wild at Porthtowan Beach. Credit: Cornwall Seal Sanctuary

Holywell Bay

Alongside hosting many of the cast of Game of Thrones for an upcoming prequel, the beach is also playing host to sewage from a sewer overflow at Holywell Road pumping station, which is 400m from the beach.

A sunny dog-walk on Holywell beach, Cornwall Credit: Chrissy Yoddles

Crantock

The RNLI at Crantock beach. Credit: ITV News

A sewage overflow surrounding Crantock sends it straight into the River Gannel, 500m upstream from the beach.

Newquay - Fistral South and Fistral North

Two separate pumping stations have sent sewage into the water here, according to the charity.

To the south, an emergency overflow has released human waste into Pentire Headland, while a second has to the north.

South Fistral Beach. Credit: PA

Mawgan Porth

This quieter beach north of Newquay has a sewage overflow which discharges into the River Menalhyl 150m upstream, and another into a tiny stream at the north of the beach.

Rescuers on the Mawgan Porth beach in Cornwall. Credit: Mitchell Naylor @KernowViddy

Polzeath

This beach is near to Padstow and Rock, but is unlikely to be suitable for swimmers due to sewage being pumped into the water just 250m upstream.

Hundreds of swimmers and surfers taking advantage of the fine weather at Polzeath in Cornwall Credit: Kathy Wardle

Crackington Haven

The north Cornwall beach has an outfall from St Gennys, which sends sewage into the Crackington Stream 2km upstream.

Widemouth Bay

This beach is popular with tourists and locals, but sewage has flown into the sea from a sewage outflow 270m upstream.

Seaton

Beaches in south east Cornwall are also affected. An overflow pipe upstream at the River Seaton “meanders” across the beach, according to Surfers Against Sewage.

Millendreath

Just north-east of Looe, Millendreath beach has a sewage outflow pipe, which sends sewage onto the west side of the beach.

Par Sands

This huge sandy beach has two sewer outflows, which can wash human waste into its waters.

One is 230m upstream at Par River, and the other flows into the sea at Par Spit.

Pentewan

An emergency sewer overflow pumps 250m upstream into the St Austell River. This may make it unsafe to swim in, according to the charity.

Pentewan beach. Credit: Google Maps

Falmouth - Gyllyngvase and Swanpool

Sewage is likely present in the water at both Swanpool and Gylly beaches in Falmouth, after storm sewers were active in the last few days.

At Gylly beach, an overflow 400m to the south west may mean it washes in, and Swanpool may be affected by an outflow 420m to the east from Queen Mary Gardens.

People enjoy the sunshine on Gyllyngvase Beach near Falmouth in Cornwall Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

Porthleven Sands

There are three different sewer outflows at this beach. One is into the harbour itself, one is east of the harbour over the rocks, and the third is at the west side of the town.

Porthleven, Cornwall Credit: John Pilkington

Perranuthnoe

Sewage from Mounts Bay may affect bathing and swimming water quality at Perrenuthnoe, the charity says.

Sea anglers on Perranuthnoe Beach near Penzance Credit: ITV News West Country

Long Rock, Penzance

Sewage can discharge into Pondsdale Brook, 130m upstream from Long Rock beach, while seven other nearby outflows lowers water quality in the area.