A total ban on swimming and watersports has come into force for Exmouth beach while sand and water samples are analysed for pollution.
Visitors, residents and tourists are urged to stay out of the water until test results come back later today (Tuesday, July 19), sparked by foul-smelling black sand at the Orcombe Point end of the beach.
Warning signs have been put up along the seafront by EDDC officers and red flags are on the beach to stop bathers going into the sea.
UPDATE – Tuesday, July 19, 6pm: Exmouth beach is reopened to swimmers and watersports after foul-smelling black sand sparked pollution scare
East Devon District Council (EDDC) on Tuesday (July 19) announced the Environment Agency-imposed ban after a beach-goer yesterday (July 18) alerted the authorities to finding black sand with a foul odour at the eastern end of the beach, between Orcombe Point and the lifeboat station.
South West Water has been testing a number of samples, and water users and bathers are urged to stay away until the results are known.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Lab results are expected later today [Tuesday] to identify the pollution risk of black, odorous sand at Exmouth beach.
“The results of a South West Water sample taken yesterday morning will help the Environment Agency and East Devon District Council understand what, if any, impact the 6 x 2 sq m section of sand between Orcombe Point and the lifeboat station will have on bathing water.
“But the only way to identify what caused it is through ongoing investigation.
“The sand is submerged during high tide and possible causes include discharge, sewage, natural decay or a substance risen to the surface due to disturbance.
The EA spokesman added: “As a precaution, East Devon District Council has advised bathers not to swim.”
An EDDC spokesperson said: “We are currently working with the Environment Agency which is investigating the incident with our and South West Water’s support.
“We would like to ask residents, visitors and tourists to respect the signs and keep out the water, until we know more.”
EDDC said red flags have been placed along the beach for the day and lifeguards have stepped up patrols in a bid to keep people out the water.
It is not known if the sand discolouration and nasty smell was caused by sewage pollution, a surface water discharge or is a natural occurrence.
EDDC said: “Exmouth beach has been closed, for swimming and watersports, after a ban was enforced by the Environment Agency, following a pollution incident.
“Red flags have been placed along the beach for the day and lifeguards have stepped up patrols in order to keep people out the water.
“The Environment Agency, East Devon District Council and South West Water received reports of black sand with a foul odour at the eastern end of the beach, between Orcombe and the lifeboat station, yesterday (Monday, 18 July).
“It is not known whether the incident was caused by sewage pollution, a surface water discharge or is a natural occurrence.
“The Environment Agency took samples of the unknown substance to analyse yesterday but the result will not be ready until tomorrow morning (Wednesday, 20 July).
“Signs asking people to stay out the water will be placed along the seafront by EDDC officers today.”
The Environment Agency on Monday confirmed it was investigating reports of a pollution incident at Exmouth, in the area between Orcombe Point and the lifeboat station.
The EA said it had liaised with South West Water, who took bacteriological samples at low tide on Monday evening.
The DEFRA website currently advises against bathing at Exmouth ‘due to pollution from sewage’ with the incident start given as beginning at 8.42am on July 18, 2022.
On Monday the EA said its advice would be reviewed once the test results were back.
The agency said it had to carry out a full investigation and satisfy itself that there was no risk to bathers or water users.
- The EA has a 24-hour incident hotline for anyone concerned about pollution or any environmental incident, on 0800 80 70 60.