Whitley Bay Beach is a gently sloping sandy resort beach with occasional rocky outcrops in the inter-tidal area. The beach is approximately 2.5 kilometres in length and backed with a promenade for most of its length.
There are six combined sewer overflows which could discharge to the bathing beach.. These overflows are designed such that they will not operate unless the rainfall is greater than a 1 in 5 year storm return. More frequent overflows will occur via the offshore CSO outfall from the Brierdene tunnel but this is located so that discharges from it do not affect the bathing water.
Crude sewage discharges in the Whitley Bay area were connected to the Tyneside interceptor sewer in the early 1980's, leaving only combined sewer overflows (CSOs) discharging to the beach in wet weather. In the early 1990's these combined sewer overflows and others were intercepted and reengineered to discharge into the Brierdene storm sewage storage tunnel. This scheme was designed to improve bathing water quality.
For the four year (2015-2018) assessment period where data is available, seaweed (macroalgae) was not assessed as being sufficient to be objectionable, but was observed as being present on 97% of visits. Environment Agency research suggests this bathing water does not have a history of large amounts of seaweed (macro algae).
Modern sewerage systems have two separate systems, one takes foul sewage to sewage treatment, the other takes rainwater runoff through surface water drains to rivers, lakes and the sea. Misconnections occur when waste water pipes are plumbed into surface water drains instead of the foul water sewerage system. This can give rise to pollution when the waste water is discharged directly to the environment through the surface water drain. For example, a washing machine or toilet may be incorrectly plumbed so that it discharges to the surface drain rather than the foul sewage drain.
For the four year (2015-2018) assessment period where data is available, phytoplankton (microscopic algae) was not noted at this site. Environment Agency research suggests this bathing water does not have a history of phytoplankton blooms.
The risks to human health from contact, ingestion or inhalation with marine algae that currently occur in UK coastal waters are considered to be low. However, some individuals may be more sensitive and display some reactions.
A common marine algae found in UK coastal waters is Phaeocystis, which is often mistaken for sewage as it forms foam and a brown scum, but it is non-toxic.
There are four watercourses which discharge onto the beach. There are a number of combined sewer overflows and pumping station emergency overflows into the Brierdene Burn throughout its length. This stream, as with the others, also receives surface water run off and after heavy rain the cumulative effect can have a short term impact on bathing water quality.
Environment Agency samplers make observations of litter present on the beach at every visit, this includes assessments of sewage debris, litter and tar. At Whitley Bay for the four year (2015-2018) assessment period where data is available, sewage debris was not assessed as being sufficient to be objectionable, but was observed as being present on 1% of visits. Litter was not assessed as being sufficient to be objectionable, but was observed as being present on 58% of visits. Tarry residue was not noted at this site.
Seaweed (macroalgae) and phytoplankton (microscopic algae) are a natural part of the marine and freshwater environment. Below we note whether these have been recorded in quantities sufficient to be a nuisance.
The majority of sewers in England are “combined sewers” and carry both sewage and surface water from roofs and drains. A storm overflow operates during heavy rainfall when the sewerage system becomes overwhelmed by the amount of surface water. The overflow prevents sewage from backing up pipes and flooding properties and gardens. An emergency overflow will only operate infrequently, for example due to pump failure or blockage in the sewerage system.
Heavy rain falling on pavements and roads often flows into surface water drains or highway drains, ending up in local rivers and ultimately the sea. The quality of bathing water may be adversely affected as a result of such events.
It is the Environment Agency role to drive improvement of water quality at bathing waters that are at risk of failing higher standards. It is natural for water to run off the land to the sea. Water quality at a bathing water is dependent upon the type and area of land (the catchment) draining to the water and the activities undertaken in that catchment.