WATER at five beaches in Suffolk and Essex has failed strict quality standards, it has emerged.

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Heavier-than-normal summer rainfall has been blamed for declining levels at Southwold, Holland-on-Sea, Jaywick and Clacton.

Another site at Clacton - named Groyne 41 - has failed for the second successive year.

All beaches in Suffolk and Essex have met mandatory European water quality standards, meaning they are safe to swim in.

But five have failed the strictest guideline standards.

“It’s a little unfortunate,” said John Daniels, senior environment officer for Suffolk and Essex at the Environment Agency. “I think most people realise how wet it was in the summer and that has increased sewage overflows and agricultural run-off which has got into the sea.

“There’s also been a lack of sunshine, which is a great natural disinfectant.

“Groyne 41 has been a persistent failure – we’re working with Tendring District Council, Anglian Water and the pier owners. It’s due to the large number of pigeons there, they have a habit of doing what pigeons do and it washes over the sample.

“The mandatory is a high-level standard which is there to protect the swimmers. The guideline is a more stringent level which is an aspiration.

“There should be no harm to swimmers [at the five beaches that have failed] – there’s just an increased risk of a stomach bug.”

The figures, released by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, show 93% of England’s bathing waters meet the minimum standard, with 58% adhering to the stricter guideline level.

Peter Halliday, TDC’s deputy leader, said there is nothing to suggest that the waters off Tendring’s beaches are not safe to swim in.

“I am very sceptical about arbitrary testing of this nature at any time,” he added. “Conditions can change by the minute due to differing factors and therefore results can change day to day. However, common sense suggests that it is not be recommended to drink sea water at any time.”

Environment minister Richard Benyon said: “While the majority of England’s bathing waters continue to be of a good quality, I am disappointed that a number have fallen short of the tighter standard due to the heavy rainfall we experienced during the summer.

“It is crucial that we continue to work with the Environment Agency, water companies and stakeholders to continue to address the effect that pollution is having on bathing water quality in some areas.”

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