Pollution Incidents

Pollution incident information

Cornwall Council is working with the Environment Agency, South West Water, Surfers Against Sewage and Public Health England to provide beach users with up to date information about any incidents of pollution which may affect bathing water quality so that the public can make informed choices about using Cornwall’s beaches.

BeachLive provides real time detailed information on water quality on the designated bathing water beaches shown below. You can see at a glance if there are any current issues and by clicking on any of the beaches shown you can find out more information about the combined sewer outfalls that may be discharging in Cornwall, beach awards, facilities and Environment Agency profile reports.

BeachLive also allows you to build your own RSS feed of your favourite beaches so you can be notified of an event as it happens.

Pollution Risk Forecasting

The Environment Agency make daily forecasts between May and September  of the pollution risk and warn when water quality is likely to be reduced at designated bathing waters where this is possible. These forecasts are based on the factors that are known to have an effect on water quality, such as heavy rainfall causing increased runoff from agriculture, urban areas or sewage sources. Forecasts will be made every day (available from 09.00) of the bathing water season and warnings issued when conditions that have been shown to affect water quality in the past re-occur. To see if any warnings have been issued please visit our water quality page or the the Environment Agencies pollution forecasting page


Other Pollution Incidents

Cornwall has over 400 beaches in Cornwall and of these only 82 bathing waters have been designated. Designated Bathing waters are those that have been identified as ‘popular bathing areas'. Although non designated bathing waters are not monitored and not covered by Beachlive or pollution forecasting, we aim to ensure that if we are informed that a pollution incident has occured at one of these beaches, that information notices will be displayed to inform beach users of the potential risks.


Warning to dog owners - substance on beaches

A white substance, which has been confirmed as a non-toxic, degraded, edible oil or fat (most likely palm oil) which has gone rancid, continues to be intermittently washed up on many of Cornwalls beaches. While the degraded palm oil is not harmful to human health, it could still be dangerous for dogs if they eat a large amount of the substance. Dog owners have already been advised to keep their dogs on a lead and away from any deposits when walking them on these affected beaches. The source is believed to be bulk tankers legally washing their tanks at sea. Once the risk of this oil being washed up has passed, this incident will be removed from this page.


Frequently asked questions


What is a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO)?

A Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) is the term used for an overflow pipe which is legally allowed to operate during wet weather.

Environment Agency provides the consents that allow South West Water to occasionally discharge excess waste water via a CSO when it combines with heavy rainfall to overload the system.

CSO’s can be directly connected to sewers and/or sewage pumping stations. In both cases, they are designed to operate at times of heavy rainfall, when flows have been substantially diluted, to release pressure in the system and reduce the risk of flooding from sewers into people’s property and land.


What is the water quality around Cornwall’s beaches?

Please visit the water quality page to view information on bathing water quality around Cornwall's beaches and monitoring results of bathing water sites in Cornwall.  For any queries relating to bathing water quality results please contact the Environment Agency'; email: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk. .


What general water quality information should I be aware of?

The quality of water in the streams that cross beaches may not be the same as the sea. Freshwater streams can sometimes contain more bacteria than sea water, particularly after heavy rain due to surface water run-off from a variety of sources including agricultural land, roads, roosting birds, foul drainage seepages and misconnections. There may be a risk of infection.

  • Do not drink or swallow water from beach streams
  • Avoid splashing stream water into your mouth
  • Wash hands carefully with clean tap or bottled water before eating or handling food

Warning - After prolonged periods of heavy rain the quality of both stream water and the sea (where the stream discharges into it) may be adversely affected. Permanent or temporary signage advising against bathing in certain areas may be in place to help the public to make an informed decision.