The annual bathing water report presented on Thursday by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency reveals that last year the quality of bathing water was high around Malta and Gozo, reaching 98.9% of the EU’s mandatory values.
For all bathing waters, the bathing season lasted about 5 months, from 19th May to 26th October 2008. Since the start of reporting in 2005, a total of 87 bathing waters were monitored by the Maltese authorities. All were coastal bathing waters. With 87 bathing waters Malta accounts for about 0.4% of the reported bathing waters of the European Union.
In Malta, 98.9 % of the coastal bathing waters met the mandatory values in 2008. This is an increase of 3.4% compared to the previous year. 94.3% of the bathing waters met the more stringent guide values, which is an increase of 4.6%. Only one bathing water (1.1%) was non-compliant with the mandatory values. This is a decrease compared to the previous year, when four bathing waters were non-compliant (4.6%). No coastal bathing water had to be closed for entire season.
At the beginning of the monitoring in 2005 the number of coastal bathing waters that complied with the mandatory and guide values was rather low. This was due to the high number of insufficiently sampled bathing waters. This problem was solved from 2006 onwards.
The Department for Environmental Health issued health warnings for five bathing waters. They were closed for few days due to localised sewage overflows. During closure sampling was carried out on a daily basis (including weekends and public holidays) and the health warnings were only lifted after 3 consecutive microbiological results confirming that the areas were once again safe for bathing.
The general public was informed by a press release issued by the Department of Information to all media. Information signs were placed at these areas informing the public that the area was temporarily closed and bathing was not recommended.
During the bathing season the Environmental Health Unit issues a weekly report with the classification for each bathing area based on the faecal coliform counts (this microbiological parameter is monitored for every week during the 23-week-long bathing season at all bathing areas).
A smiley weekly report has also been issued on a regular basis. As from this year the raw data for the three microbiological parameters have also been posted on a weekly basis on the unit webpage. Copies of these reports are sent by e-mail to all those who requested to be placed on our mailing list and to all local councils.
All bathing areas monitored as part of the bathing water monitoring programme are clearly identified by fixed information signs indicating the site code and stating that the area is monitored by the Department for Environmental Health on a regular basis. These information signs are in five languages. If there will be the need to temporarily close any of these areas, a temporarily closure sign is attached at the same site and again the information is in five languages.
To further improve the bathing water quality, Malta has commissioned 2 new sewage treatment plants, one in the North of Malta and the other in Gozo. Another facility is to be constructed in the South of Malta and should be in operation by end 2009. The total cost of these three plants, to comply with the Urban Waste Water Directive, is estimated to be € 73 million.
A National Plan is also in place by the relevant Competent Authority to relocate all fish farms to a site where they should not pose any possible impacts on the bathing areas.
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