Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 11:52 UK

Top beach loses clean water award

Elie Seafront (Courtesy undiscovered Scotland)
Elie had been considered among Scotland's cleanest beaches

One of Scotland's most popular bathing spots has lost its Blue Flag status.

Elie Harbour Beach, in Fife, held the coveted international award for more than 10 years, but recent water samples have failed to meet EU standards.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) and Scottish Water are investigating how traces of faecal streptococci were found in the sea.

The beach was one of only seven in Scotland to hold the award, run by Keep Scotland Beautiful.

The accolade, recognised in 37 countries across Europe, is awarded annually.

The decision to remove the Blue Flag came after four samples, taken from Earlsferry Beach and Elie Harbour in June and July, failed to meet required standards.

Sepa said microbiologists were carrying out tests to determine why the water quality had dropped - saying the most recent sample, taken on 27 July, showed a return to guideline quality.

'Bitterly disappointed'

Scottish Water said the contamination seemed to have been due to a "combination of factors".

In a statement, the body said: "Throughout the season our assets have been hit with heavy deluges of rain and have generally coped very well and, although we have had some recent intermittent technical problems with blockages at our pumping station, these were resolved as they arose.

"Samples in the last few days from Elie have passed testing, and we are working flat out to protect the water quality - but there will be consented spills from our sewer system during heavy rainfall.

"A new overflow screen was fitted to the pumping station at South Street just prior to the bathing season and investment is planned in September to upgrade the storm overflow network in the area - this work was rescheduled so there would not be work at the beaches during the crucial tourist season."

Donna Niven, of conservation body Keep Scotland Beautiful, said the organisation was "bitterly disappointed" the Blue Flag had been withdrawn.

She added: "We are pleased Elie Harbour/Earlsferry will continue to be actively managed and that Seaside Award standards will be maintained - allowing visitors to access up to date information about the water quality - which has already returned to the top standard."

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Fife Online Elie's Blue Flag lies in tatters - 46 hrs ago
The Scotsman Beauty-spot beach loses Blue Flag award over 'sewage' traces - 56 hrs ago

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