Girvan beach has been given a poor rating in the latest bathing water quality report released by the environment agency SEPA.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency report states that the surrounding agricultural land and associated activities are thought to contribute a ‘significant’ amount of microbiological pollution to the water.
However it also stresses that this pollution only occurs around periods of heavy rain and only lasts one to two days.
Farming leaders say that there has been a huge effort by farmers to tackle pollution in recent years with the Europen Commission recognising this as one of the best examples in the whole of Europe.
Other beaches in South Ayrshire; Heads of Ayr, South Beach, Ayr and Prestwick were also rated as poor while Maidens and Culzean beaches were given an excellent rating.
The designation is a result of tough new standards introduced in the 2006 EU directive on bathing water. Waters are tested for bacteria linked to human and animal waste, E coli and intestinal enterococci.
The report states: “We recently used new DNA tracing techniques which help us identify whether sources of pollution are human or animal. In 2009 this method was used at Girvan and at sites in the river catchment, which enables us to target further investigations and identify appropriate courses of corrective action. Results indicate that animal sources are likely to be contributing, at times, to bathing water quality.
“The principal risks and source of wet weather driven short term pollution at the bathing water arise from agricultural run-off. These events are expected to last one to two days depending on the duration of rainfall.
“Our regulatory and scientific assessment indicates that there are no significant pollution inputs to this bathing water under normal weather conditions.”
The report goes on to state that SEPA will be working with farmers to reduce pollution.
The report added: “Tackling diffuse agricultural pollution requires concerted action across cathments. We will ensure this by working with farmers to raise awareness about the requirement to prevent and reduce pollution, and to help them identify appropriate actions for doing so.”
Andrew Bauer, deputy director of policy at NFUS, said: “There has been a huge effort by farmers in this catchment area to increase slurry storage capacity. Working in partnership with SEPA, farmers are taking great strides towards improving the management in a way that reduces the risk of diffuse pollution at times of exceptionally high rainfall.
“This work has been recognised by the EC as one of the best examples in the whole of Europe. It is a challenge that farmers are up to meeting and they have great pride in that effort. Any pollution is a loss of nutrients that could have been kept in the field.”
The report also stated that bathing water quality at Girvan had improved ‘substantially’ since new sewage treatment schemes were introduced in 2001. The discharge from the Girvan sewage works is not thought to affect water quality.