Improvements to treatment works will help safeguard beach’s ‘safe to swim’ status.

SOUTH West Water has announced a £20 million investment programme to protect bathing water quality at six beaches, including at Combe Martin in North Devon.

The improvements to sewers and treatment works will help the beach keep its ‘safe to swim’ status under tougher European Union directives.

The beach at Combe Martin is one of those beaches identified as being ‘at risk’ of losing its bathing water accreditation when the EU’s Revised Bathing Water Directive comes into force in 2015.

The company will spend £800,000 on improving the combined sewer overflows at the Pack ‘O Cards and Seaside; this is on top of more than £80,000 already spent on sewer pipe renewal this year. The work is expected to be completed by January 2014.

Around the region, the firm said that a further £30m would be spent on maintaining 3,730 miles of sewers, and £10m on customer debt and assistance programmes.

The investment is to be funded from efficiency savings and will not to affect household bills, the firm says.

Chief executive Chris Loughlin said: “Investing now in our network and treatment works protecting bathing water quality will help minimise the risk of these vital beaches losing their status and serious knock-on damage to the region’s number one industry – tourism.

“We can’t solve every issue on our own affecting bathing water quality, such as agricultural run-off and animal fouling, but we want to do our utmost to make sure our sewerage network and treatment works operate in the most environmentally-friendly way possible.”