Foul-smelling black sand on Exmouth beach sparks no-swim area and pollution investigation

Pollution fears on Exmouth beach have sparked a no-swim area for bathers while foul-smelling black sand near Orcombe Point is investigated.

The Environment Agency (EA), South West Water and the district council on Monday (July 18) teamed up to investigate the origin of the odour and discolouration after a member of the public raised the alarm.

UPDATE – Tuesday, July 19, 6pm: Exmouth beach is reopened to swimmers and watersports after foul-smelling black sand sparked pollution scare

Red flags warning bathers against going into the sea are in place between Orcombe Point and the Queen’s Drive Exmouth RNLI lifeboat station.

South West Water has been called in to take samples at this evening’s low tide, at around 5pm, to test for pollution, surface water discharge, or a natural occurrence.

Earlier today, East Devon District Council (EDDC) received reports of black sand with a foul odour near an abandoned sewer line at the eastern end of the beach.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “The Environment Agency is today investigating reports of a pollution incident at Exmouth, in the area between Orcombe Point and the lifeboat station.

“A member of the public alerted the Environment Agency to the incident, reporting black sand and an odour.

“We have liaised with South West Water and they will be taking bacteriological samples at low tide later today.

“East Devon council, as owner of the beach, have put up signs advising against bathing and our Swimfo website carries the same message, advising against bathing.”

The EA spokesperson added: “As soon as we have the results of South West Water’s sampling, we will review the advice.

“With the current hot weather we appreciate people’s desire to cool off in the sea, but we must carry out our investigations fully and satisfy ourselves that there is no risk to bathers.”

East Devon District Council said: “We are currently working with the Environment Agency which raised a pollution incident after reports of black sand with a foul odour near an abandoned sewer line at the eastern end of the beach.

“Currently, we are unsure whether this is a result of a sewage pollution, a surface water discharge or a natural occurrence.

“South West Water have been notified and will be attending today (July 18) and the Environment Agency may also be attending today.

“Our lifeguards have put out red flags on the beach between Orcombe and the lifeboat station to advise against going into the sea in that area until the incident is resolved.”

  • The EA has a 24-hour incident hotline for anyone concerned about pollution or any environmental incident, on 0800 807060.

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