A wake up call is being issued to Combe Martin residents urging them to help save the bathing water status of their beach before it is too late.

The stream running down Combe Martin beach is a major source of the sewage pollution affecting the bay. Picture: Tony GussinThe stream running down Combe Martin beach is a major source of the sewage pollution affecting the bay. Picture: Tony Gussin

A public meeting is being held on Wednesday, January 15 to highlight the severe pollution issues affecting the beach and to raise public awareness to try and tackle the problems.

As many people as possible are urged to attend the meeting at the Village Hall at 6.30pm, which has been organised by Combe Martin Water Watch Group and Combe Martin Business Association.

The beach has failed the Environment Agency bathing standards for the past three years and if it fails twice more the beach will be 'de-designated'.

This means in 2021 there will be signs up warning people not to swim in the water, which the campaign group fears could badly affect the tourism local businesses rely on and hurt the local economy.

This could harm watersports such as kayaking, which have become popular in the bay and the group says no-one would be able to promote beach activities and bathing 'without potential legal implications'.

Testing by the EA has shown the stream leading to the beach can contain human, dog and livestock faeces.

The human element is mostly is caused by sewage overflows or spills after heavy rain - in 2018 it spilled 173 times.

Dog fouling is also an issue and livestock effluent makes it way into the stream after running off the hills during rainfall.

The public meeting will be attended by Environment Agency representatives, plus those from South West Water and local councils, as well as someone from the North Devon MP's office, local Labour and Green parties.

Trevor Kibble, chairman of the Water Watch Group, said: "This is now extremely serious for us and if we do fail the village is in deep trouble.

"Testing begins in May and goes on until September 30. This year is absolutely crucial for us and if we fail we are in a very dangerous situation."

South West Water spent £2million installing two overflow tanks in the village but the group says they have not worked properly and more investigation needs to be undertaken.

It is hoped with enough public awareness more can be done to prevent the pollution, including the education of locals and tourists to prevent things such as dog fouling.

Other measures could include repairing misconnections in the sewerage system, reducing the run-off from fields by making ponds and filter beds and redirecting the flow of the stream over the beach.