Facing north and located within the waters of Cardigan Bay, Traeth Gwyn is a sandy cove, backed by steep cliffs. The surrounding landscape is made up of agricultural land, caravan parks and the village of New Quay, less than 1 kilometre away. The coastal waters and coastal belt are designated as the Cardigan Bay Special Area of Conservation and Aberarth Cerreg Wylan Site of Special Scientific Interest, confirming the high conservation status of the area. The water quality sample point is located at the centre of the beach.
Natural Resources Wales continues to work with Ceredigion County Council and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to establish sources of pollution around the beach.
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). Investigations during 2017 and 2018 identified a number of misconnected properties in the Afon Halen Catchment, which were subsequently re-connected to mains sewer.
Traeth Gwyn is potentially impacted by numerous storm, emergency and surface water outfalls within the main freshwater rivers particularly during heavy rainfall.
Within the catchment of Traeth Gwyn bathing water, there are numerous storm, emergency and surface water outfalls that discharge to the coastal streams. These protect domestic properties from being flooded by sewage during heavy rainfall. However sewer overflows operating during and following periods of heavy rain can result in a fall in the quality of the water in the streams and at Traeth Gwyn bathing water.
In recent years, telemetry equipment has been installed in most of the overflows by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water. This technology has allowed Dŵr Cymru to respond to warnings of blockages in the sewage system and has reduced the number of actual and potential overflows.
A project known as Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) is underway to install telemetry on Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) within 2km of a bathing water by 2020 so that Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) know when the CSOs are operating and can work to reduce spills. Four CSOs near Traeth Gwyn New Quay are included in the project.
Wrongly connected waste water pipes can affect the water quality of rivers and the sea. Natural Resources Wales has worked with and Ceredigion County Council and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to trace the sources of pollution from household toilet and utility misconnections to the private and public surface water system that discharge into Traeth Gwyn bathing waters.
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 does not have a history of such blooms.
This bathing water is subject to short term pollution. Short term pollution is caused when heavy rainfall washes faecal material into the sea from livestock, sewage and urban drainage via rivers and streams. At this site the risk of encountering reduced water quality increases after rainfall and typically returns to normal after 1-3 days. Natural Resources Wales makes daily pollution risk forecasts based on rainfall patterns and will issue a pollution risk warning if heavy rainfall occurs to enable bathers to avoid periods of increased risk. Natural Resources Wales works to reduce the sources of this pollution through pollution prevention measures, work with agriculture and water companies.
Streams are typically affected by sewage or industrial run off from further up the catchment. Traeth Gwyn is influenced by a number of small unnamed streams and also by the Afon Halen and Afon Felen that flow directly onto and around the bathing water. High flows in streams, rivers and sewers due to heavy rainfall affects water quality in the bay.
Sewage from Traeth Gwyn is pumped to Llanina Sewage Treatment Works, less than 1 kilometre up the coast, to the east of the beach. This discharges via a long sea outfall, to the coastal water at Cardigan Bay, to protect bathing water quality.
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 Traeth Gwyn New Quay, data are available for the four year assessment period from 2015-2018. Sewage debris was not observed at this bathing water. 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 on over fifty per cent of occasions. Oil and tarry residues were not noted at this site.
Natural Resources Wales continues to work with private owners to address 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 heavily influenced by tourism, with large caravan sites located along the coastal belt. Most of the area is residential property and agriculture and a number of small streams, including the Afon Halen and the Afon Felen flow onto and around 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 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.