Have the summer floods ruined Welsh beaches?

Have the summer floods ruined Welsh beaches?PA

Almost a third of Welsh beaches could be at risk of losing their prized blue flag status because this summer's floods have resulted in a rise of bacteria levels in the seawater.

From next year, new rules mean that water quality will be assessed over four years rather than one - and although 43 beaches and five marinas in Wales earned blue flag status in 2012, six beaches lost it.

Environment Agency Wales (EAW) has said that the wettest UK summer in 100 years has resulted in a rise in bacteria levels in the water due to sewage pollution.

Samples taken from beaches since May have shown a temporary increase in bacteria which could have come from rainwater running off farm land, carrying sheep and cattle waste into the sea; storm sewage systems releasing diluted sewage into the sea to protect homes from flooding, and leaks from household plumbing and septic tanks.

A lack of sunshine has also contributed to the problem, as UV rays usually kill some of the bacteria found in the sea.

BBC News reports that the bacteria was not at a high enough level to pose a health risk, but it would affect bathing water classifications for 2013, which will be announced in November.

EAW have not named the beaches that might be at risk of losing their blue flag status, but Keep Britain Tidy said that research in England suggested that 20-30 per cent of beaches in England and Wales could be at risk.

Chris Mills, director of EAW, said: "The heavy rain this summer has not only caused significant flooding and problems for farmers and tourism, it has also affected bathing waters at some of our beaches.

"It is disappointing as the trend for bathing waters in recent years is on the up, but the record rainfall this year could buck the trend."

Earlier this year, Aberavon, Cefn Sidan (pictured above), Llandudno North Shore, Aberystwyth, Criccieth and Fairbourne all lost the status.

The blue flag award is issued by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which rates beaches on various categories including facilities, environmental management, water quality and cleanliness.

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Click on the link below to see our pick of the best beaches in Wales...

Ten of the best beaches in Wales
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Have the summer floods ruined Welsh beaches?

Nestled between Saundersfoot and Pendine, this pristine beach is very popular with swimmers and those with a penchant for rockpooling. Did you know? At extreme low tide you can see the petrified forest destroyed when sea levels rose 7,000 years ago. Fossilised antlers, animal bones and Neolithic flints have been discovered here in the past...

Kate and Wills have been sighted here on several occassions - so who knows, if you visit Aberffraw you may spot the couple on one of their regular country walks! Did you know? In Welsh mythology, Aberffraw is the site of Branwen and Matholwch's wedding festival where Efnysien maimed Matholwch's horses.

A sandy beach stretching three miles and backed with sand dunes, at low tide Rhossili Bay is expansive, giving you the option of walking over to Worm's Head (pictured). Did you know? Rhossili Bay has been used as the setting of New Earth in Doctor Who and the bay was used in Torchwood: Miracle Day.

A beautiful beach laden with history, Whitesands Bay is popular with surfers and has been described as one of the best tourist beaches in the world. Did you know? At very low tide the remains of an ancient submerged forest can be seen on the beach - a bear jaw was once discovered here.

A small harbour resort located within the Snowdonia National Park, Aberdyfi offers a range of watersports including sailing, canoeing, fishing and boat trips. Did you know? The Romans established a track into Aberdyfi as part of the military occupation of Wales around AD78.

A truly peaceful corner of the world with wonderful views, Dinas Dinlle is the perfect place to take a ramble. Did you know? From the village, you can take pleasure flights around the peninsula or even take flying lessons.

Poppit Sands, a half mile beach backed with sand dunes, is situated at the beginning (or the end, depending on which direction you're heading) of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This beach is also a popular spot for power kiting. Did you know? Bottlenose dolphins can often be spotted around the bay, as well as porpoise.

The beach, which has earned a Green Coast Award, has safe swimming conditions and an abundance of wildlife including seals, porpoises and dolphins. Did you know? Mwnt was the site of an unsuccessful invasion by Flemings in 1155 (later celebrated as "Red Sunday"). It's said the bones of the defeated invaders were sometimes visible under the sand during the early 20th century.

Marloes, an isolated stretch of sand, is rarely busy. It offers views to Skokholm and Gateholm Islands and is a good spot for surfing and horse-riding. Did you know? The remains of neolithic to medieval settlements can be found on the island.

Rocky outcrops, sealife, a Millennium Celtic Cross and rockpools can all be found here. The sea is clean and safe for swimming, too. Did you know? Legend has it that Saint Ffraid, the patron saint of Trearddur Bay, from Kildare, Ireland was carried over the Irish Sea and arrived at the beach on a square of green turf.

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