The beach is very long, sandy and straight, fringed by a belt of sand dunes. From the beach, there are clear views across Carmarthen Bay, to the Gower Peninsular and Tenby. The beach is located within the Carmarthen Bay and Estuary Special Area of Conservation. The water quality sample point is located 400 metres east of the car park.
Natural Resources Wales works with Carmarthenshire County Council and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to identify sources of pollution around Pendine bathing water.
Inspections are carried out by Natural Resources Wales in partnership with the local authority and the water company. These are carried out pre-season (before the 15th of May) and mid season if required (during the bathing water season).
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.
Since the 1990’s, there has been a great deal of investment in the sewage system along the north shore of the Burry Inlet. Recent improvements have included the provision of ultra-violet disinfection for some storm discharges and increased storm sewage storage capacity. Within the Loughor estuary and the wider the Burry Inlet, there are a number of storm, emergency, surface water outfalls and sewage treatment works outfalls.
Natural Resources Wales and Carmarthenshire County Council have been working together to improve the bathing water quality at Pendine for a number of years.
Natural Resources Wales meets with representatives of local community groups to ensure residents are kept informed of any issues impacting water quality and to discuss concerns.
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. These algal blooms can occur at any beach during the bathing season and are usually noticeable by a surface scum. This beach has a history of such blooms.
The natural effects of the weather and tides within an estuary can result in bathing water quality being impacted by nearby streams and/or rivers. During and after periods of heavy rainfall, run off from both agricultural and urban areas will be greatly increased. Streams and rivers are typically affected by sewage or industrial run off from further up the catchment.
There is evidence to suggest that Pendine bathing water can be influenced by the freshwater of the Three Rivers Estuary and several streams further west of the beach. This is illustrated by low salinity levels observed in some bathing water quality samples.
There are also numerous small streams and surface water drains which empty into the bay, which after periods of heavy rainfall may sometimes be a source of reduced water quality than usual. High flows in streams, rivers and sewers due to heavy rainfall can affect bathing water quality at Pendine.
Sewage effluent from Pendine is conveyed via a series of pumping stations to a sewage treatment works to the east of the village. This discharges effluent to a soak away, within the dunes, approximately 1.5 km from the designated bathing water sampling point.
Natural Resources Wales samplers make visual observations of the beach at every visit. This includes assessments of sewage debris, animal faeces, litter and oil or tar. At Pendine, data are available for the four year assessment period from 2015-2018. Sewage debris was observed at intervals on one occasion in August 2015. Trace amounts of animal faeces were noted at the site on a minority of occasions. Trace amounts of litter were observed at the bathing water the majority of the time and in greater amounts on less than ten per cent of additional occasions. Oil and tarry residues were not noted at this site.
The catchment of the Burry Inlet is largely agricultural with significant areas of land occupied by livestock. Pendine bathing water could have reduced water quality after periods of rainfall due to the close proximity of this bathing water to the Three Rivers (Colby River, Castle Stream and New Inn Stream). Large numbers of sheep graze the salt marshes on either side of the Burry Inlet. Under certain tidal states large areas of the salt marshes are flooded.
The Pendine Pill, which crosses the beach, is a slow flowing stream, influenced by agriculture. Natural Resources Wales works within the catchment to minimise the risk of agriculture affecting the water quality.
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 qualifying private sewage systems in Wales was 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 discharges from properties are identified in the catchment that are not on mains sewerage, Natural Resources Wales will endeavour to ensure registration has been made, unless already a permitted discharge.
The natural drainage (hydrological) catchment surrounding the bathing water is predominantly agricultural. There is a small stream, the Pendine Pill, that flows through Pendine, crossing the beach before reaching the sea. The stream runs from east to west and flows through culverts, under parts of the village. The primary land use inland from Pendine is agricultural, with a number of dairy farms in the catchment. To the east, the land immediately next to the sea is owned by the Ministry of Defence. This is used for weapon testing and light agriculture.
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 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 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. The following sections serve to highlight potential sources of pollution, conditions under which they may arise and measures being put in place to improve water quality.