FOUR beaches in Wearside and East Durham have been given top marks for water quality.
Seaburn and Roker beaches in Sunderland, and Seaham and Seaham Hall beaches in East Durham, were given the “higher” rating by the Environment Agency in a report released today.
The Government body ranked North East beaches overall as some of the best in the country, with all 34 bathing waters in the region meeting the water quality standard.
Simon Firth, environment manager at the Environment Agency (EA), said the results showed how bathing water has improved, but there is still more work to do.
Both Seaburn and Seaham beaches are expected to sink from “excellent” to “good” when a tougher testing regime comes into play in 2015, and Seaham Hall beach will only be ranked as “sufficient.”
Mr Firth said: “We have worked with a range of people, from farmers to big business, to tackle pollution and ensure that beaches in the North East are something to be proud of.
“But new, stricter standards will come into force in 2015, and we are working with water companies, farmers, local authorities and beach managers to tackle persistent sources of pollution and make sure that as many beaches as possible pass these standards.”
The Environment Agency launched a “Facebook-style” website for bathing spots earlier this year, to allow beach users to check up on their local dipping spots.
Critics have previously warned Wearsiders to treat the Environment Agency’s testing information with “a pinch of salt.”
Campaigners have been up in arms for years about problems with sewage on Wearside’s beaches.
The EA says it has helped to secure £4billion investment by the water industry in environmental improvement nationally, including at bathing waters, between 2010 and 2015.
More than 90 projects will improve water quality at 37 coastal locations, while scientific investigation will help identify sources of pollution at a further 44 sites.
The EA is also calling on councils and other organisations to tackle pollution from roads, homes and businesses, caused when everyday things such as dishwashers, washing machines and toilets are incorrectly plumbed – potentially releasing waste water into inland and coastal waters.
Mr Firth added: “Farmers, businesses, local authorities and water companies all have a role to play in improving water quality.
“We need to act now to make the improvements necessary to bring our bathing waters up to the new stricter standards.”