Totland Bay is a small rural beach located at the north western end of the Isle of Wight which enjoys panoramic views of the Solent. The sandy beach slopes gently into the sea. There are cafes and facilities close by.
Environment Agency tracer studies identified a leaking section of sewer, which Southern Water replaced prior to the 1999 bathing season, but confirmatory tracer studies demonstrated that a leak persisted. Southern Water sealed the entire length of suspect sewer in July 1999 and follow-up tracer studies by the Environment Agency confirmed that the work was effective in stopping sewage leaks to the surface water system.
Outfalls at Totland and Yarmouth were transferred to Norton in 1994 and on to Sandown sewage treatment works by 2002. Two storm overflows direct to the bathing water were improved prior to the 1999 bathing season to meet bathing water compliance requirements. Southern Water carried out a number of other public sewer improvements in 1999 aimed at preventing contamination of surface water drains.
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 60% of visits. The shore can become covered with seaweed, depending on tides and the weather. Groynes, rocks and other fixed objects may have a covering of seaweed which can be slippery.
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 assessed as being sufficient to be objectionable, but was observed as being present on 3% of visits. Microscopic algae (phytoplankton) increase in number at certain times of the year. This process is known as a phytoplankton bloom. Blooms of phytoplankton can result in the water appearing discoloured or a foam forming on the water.
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.
Environment Agency samplers make observations of litter present on the beach at every visit, this includes assessments of sewage debris, litter and tar. At Totland Bay for the four year (2015-2018) assessment period where data is available, sewage debris was not noted at this site. Litter was not assessed as being sufficient to be objectionable, but was observed as being present on 46% of visits. Tarry residue was not noted at this site.
The natural drainage (hydrological) catchment surrounding the bathing water is about 200 hectares. The majority of the catchment is arable agricultural land. The village area backs the southern half of the beach.
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.