Cornwall Council says it won’t close beaches due to sewage pollution unless there’s a severe danger to people’s health. 

The local authority responded after 80 per cent of beaches in Cornwall were given raw sewage alerts after heavy rain at the weekend.

Environmental pressure group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) reported that 33 Cornish beaches received a “sewage pollution alert” and 21 others triggered a “pollution risk forecast or incident alert”. SAS monitors water quality across 68 beaches in Cornwall.

According to SAS, a pollution alert means “storm sewage has been discharged from a sewer overflow in this location within the past 48 hours”, while a “pollution risk forecast or incident alert” means there is potential for sewage to be in the area.

Beaches on both the south and north coasts of Cornwall were affected, including Looe, Falmouth and Penzance. 

The main contributing factor to polluted beaches is urban run-off, which sees fertilisers, pesticides, oil and untreated human and animal waste all entering waterways, eventually ending up at our beaches. The contaminated water largely remains on the surface and make it dangerous to enter the sea.

According to Surf Today, some experts suggest waiting 72 hours before entering the sea again after it rains. 

Swallowing water that could be contaminated with faecal matter could lead to a number of illnesses. Symptoms to look out for include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, an inflamed stomach and intestines.

Cornwall Council were asked if it has now reached the point where the council should be closing affected beaches in order to safeguard people’s health from sewage pollution.

A spokesperson replied: “Cornwall Council is alerted to Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) events by South West Water and of Pollution Risk Forecasts (PRF) and Abnormal Situations (AS) via the Environment Agency. Unless there is a severe danger to health, we would not restrict people’s right to enter the sea.

“When these alerts are received, the council will contact each affected beach’s contact, who will put up a notice at the site to warn beachgoers of the potential issues with the bathing water quality. 

“On beaches with RNLI cover, lifeguards will be made aware of any potential issues with water quality and can advise visitors of the situation.”