South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has called for urgent action after it was revealed five beaches in Dumfries and Galloway are in breach of sewage safety limits so far this summer.

Figures published by The Ferret at the weekend list Sandyhills; Rockcliffe; Dhoon Bay; Brighouse Bay; and Mossyard among 30 of Scotland’s worst polluted beaches.

Sepa samples bathing waters every summer to check whether concentrations of two faecal bacteria, E Coli and intestinal enterococci, breach European safety limits.

Due to Covid-19, fewer samples than usual are being taken this year because the official bathing season has been shortened by six weeks.

As a result, Sepa told The Ferret that it would not be able to take enough samples to give bathing waters overall pollution classifications at the end of the 2020 season. Instead, the results from previous years will be used to rate bathing waters for 2021.

That means that the five bathing waters rated as “poor” this year on past performance will also be rated as poor next year. They include Rockcliffe, Dhoon Bay and Brighouse Bay in Dumfries and Galloway.

Colin Smyth said: “Dumfries and Galloway boasts one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country and especially during the summer months, people flock to its beaches to walk, swim and take part in water sports.

“I was shocked to see five of our most popular and lovely beaches featured in this list of the most polluted in Scotland and I am calling for urgent action to help address these issues. In particular, we need more investment in sewer overflows to help prevent this issue getting any worse.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant a lot more people have been heading outdoors to enjoy fresh air and exercise along the coast, and also to swim and take part in water sports. They need to have confidence in the water they are using, which is why these issues must be resolved as quickly and safely as possible.

“These beaches are very important for tourism, which has already taken a terrible hit from Covid-19 and we cannot afford to see the industry which many people in our region rely on, suffer further.”

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