Two public figures have hit out at government plans for sewage treatment works in Peel which could fail to meet modern EU water quality standards.
The 2014 Good Beach Guide, published last week, found that Peel beach has failed to meet the minimum requirements for safe bathing for the second year running.
Peel currently has no treatment works at all, and untreated sewage is pumped directly into the bay from an outlet near the breakwater.
Peel commissioner Ian Davison has slammed the levels of pollution in the bay:
‘It’s a desperate shame as Peel is one of the nicest beaches in the Isle of Man. Until something is put in place, we will always have a dirty beach.’
The Good Beach Guide’s findings are based on the 1976 EU Bathing Directive which sets a minimum standard for levels of faecal waste and bacteria in bathing areas.
A new and stricter EU standard from 2006 will come into effect next year, making it much more difficult for Peel and other Manx beaches to be rated as safe in the future.
But Environment Minister Phil Gawne MHK told the Keys in March that Manx Utilities Authority’s scheme for Peel would be designed to comply with the 1976 directive, which will by then have been superceded.
He added that provision could be made for future upgrades to the facility.
Mr Davison criticised the plan to install what he described as an ‘antiquated’ system. ‘They’re trying to get away with building a facility that wouldn’t be anywhere near the 2006 regulations,’ he said. ‘If you take all the beaches around us in England and Ireland, they all have to comply. Why do the people of Peel deserve second best?
He added: ‘You should build something that will be suitable from the start. In my opinion the government are putting expenditure over safety.’
Onchan MHK Peter Karran (Liberal Vannin) has backed the commissioner’s demand for sewage treatment which will comply with the modern regulations: ‘Geographically speaking, the beach at Peel is one of the best and safest there is for young people, but the levels of pollution are unacceptable.’
However, Paul Lenartowicz, senior analyst at the government laboratory, said that treatment facilities are not specifically built to comply with EU directives on bathing water, and that the effectiveness of treatment could vary.
He said: ‘It’s one of those things where the effect isn’t completely known until it’s done,’ adding that other pollution such as sewage overflows, cross-connections and runoff from agricultural land would still exist, regardless of the sewage treatment in place.
He endorsed the proposal for a facility that could be upgraded to meet future standards, known as adding tertiary treatment: ‘In the case of Peel, putting in any form of sewage system must be an improvement, and having the capability to add tertiary treatment is probably the most pragmatic way to proceed.’