2014 Bathing Water Profile for Barmouth

  • The long sandy beach is situated below a rocky outcrop on the north bank of the Mawddach Estuary, with the seaside village of Fairbourne situated on the opposite south bank. The bathing water lies within the Lleyn Peninsula and the Sarnau Special Area of Conservation. To the south of the beach is the Mawddach Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest, whilst the hillside behind the beach is designated as the Barmouth Hillside Site of Special Scientific Interest. The water quality sample point is located opposite the North Avenue by the Marwyn Hotel.
  • Gwynedd
  • Natural Resources Wales works to establish sources of pollution around Barmouth. Some of this work is carried out in partnership with Gwynedd County Council and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water. Inspections are carried out by Natural Resources Wales in partnership with the local authority and the water company. These are normally carried out pre-season (before the 1st of May) and mid season if required (during the bathing water season). An investigation into the contamination of a surface water drain discharging at the head of the beach was carried out in 2009. This was traced back to a misconnection to the surface water drainage system. Corrections have since been carried out.
  • There is one storm outfall onto the beach, one pumping station emergency outfall at the harbour and a surface water outfall. Movements of the sand banks can cause blockages, resulting in the surface water outfall surcharging at the head of the beach.
  • Natural Resources Wales has developed a good working relationship with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and liaises regularly to identify problems that could affect bathing water quality. Natural Resources Wales and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water have been investigating contaminated surface water drains and have undertaken a sewage system survey to locate misconnections.
  • Natural Resources Wales and Gwynedd Council have been working together to improve the bathing water quality at Barmouth for a number of years. This includes tracing the sources of pollution from household toilet and utility misconnections to the private and public surface water system that is discharging ultimately into coastal waters.
  • This bathing water does not have a history of large amounts of seaweed (macroalgae).
  • Barmouth has historically had a combined sewer system. As a result, when systems have been separated and connected to foul and surface water, misconnections have been made. Wrongly connected waste water pipes can affect the water quality of rivers and the sea. Work is being carried out by Natural Resources Wales and Gwynedd Council to correct misconnections at Barmouth. 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.
  • Phytoplankton (microscopic algae) naturally increase in number at certain times of the year. This process is known as a phytoplankton bloom. Algal Blooms can occur at any beach during the bathing season and are usually noticeable by a surface scum. This beach has no history of such blooms.
  • 2014 Bathing Water Profile for Barmouth
  • Streams are typically affected by sewage or industrial run off from further up the catchment. The beach is influenced by a relatively large freshwater input from the River Mawddach, via the Mawddach Estuary. There is also an unnamed stream to the south. The River Mawddach has an extensive agricultural catchment which, in addition to the stream, can be a source of reduced water quality after heavy rainfall.
  • The Sewage Treatment Plant at Barmouth has been upgraded with a membrane bio-reactor treatment plant, which better protects the quality of the bathing water.
  • Natural Resources Wales continues to work with private owners regarding potential pollution sources to the bathing water. This work involves where necessary, advisory mail drops, dye tracing, misconnection surveys and face to face meetings. Poorly maintained private sewage treatment facilities could be a source of pollution, therefore the registration of all private sewage systems in Wales is required by 30 June 2012. The primary aim of this exercise is to provide increased protection for the environment and sensitive features such as bathing water beaches. Where properties are identified in the catchment that are not on mains sewerage, Natural Resources Wales will endeavour to ensure registration has been made.
  • The natural drainage (hydrological) catchment is generally rural, apart from the small coastal town of Barmouth. The beach is backed by steep hills on the north bank of the Mawddach Estuary. There are several camp sites within the Mawddach catchment, with numerous large caravan sites to the south, between Llwyngwril and Fairbourne, and to the north between Barmouth and Dyffryn Ardudwy. Water quality can potentially be influenced by agriculture within the Mawddach catchment and sheep grazing on the salt marshes in the Mawddach Estuary.
  • 2014 39300:1

    • 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 and Wales 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 and Natural Resources Wales role to drive improvement of water quality at bathing waters that are at risk of failing European 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.
    • Discharges from sewage treatment works have improved substantially in England and Wales since the 1980s.

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