THE failure of Barry Island beaches to get a Blue Flag cannot be dismissed by the Council leader.

Unlike 33 other Welsh beaches, they failed in 2013 to meet the revised bathing water standard and are likely to fail in future years.

Bathing water monitoring has long shown bacteria and viruses from sewage in the water; Jackson’s Bay failed the standard in some years, while Whitmore Bay scraped through, with one to three samples failing in 20.

The revised standard has been long delayed, and catches out sewage polluted waters as it's approximately twice as tight. Why didn’t the Council foresee this, tell us the reason and consider what to do? Rather, they carried on blindly approving housing development that loads the inadequate foul water system with increased sewage.

The reason for failure could be two-fold. The Cog Moors sewage works lacks tertiary (UV) disinfection at the Cog Moors sewage works, unlike most other major sewage works in Wales. Second, the Cog Moors works has insufficient capacity, so uses the by-pass discharge to pass through unprocessed sewage at times of high rainfall, not just exceptionally but many times per year.

It was designed with inadequate capacity in the 1990s, because the planners underestimated the volumes of rain run-off from roadways, roofs, drives and car-parks. Grangetown has a new project to run such water into permeable surfaces and green-planted soak-aways. But the Vale Council has done nothing similar (though Friends of the Earth proposed the 1999 Unitary Development Plan include a ‘sustainable urban drainage’ policy).

The Council should have rejected the recent Wenvoe and Culverhouse Cross housing developments until adequate sewage treatment is in place. But they kept quiet on the issue. Similarly, the Vale’s Cabinet are proposing excessive house-building in Sully, Penarth and Llandough under their Local Development Plan (LDP) while disregarding the deficit in sewage capacity.

The failure to get Blue Flags for Barry beaches should be a wake-up signal – and cause the Vale Council to cut out the major housing plans in the eastern Vale from the LDP, until effective sewage treatment is planned and guaranteed. This would include housing plans in Rhoose and north Barry, east of the river Thaw.

Max Wallis

Barry & Vale Friends of the Earth