Environment: Surfers given pledge on sewage

The Government today pledged to investigate surfers' fears over sewage germs in seawater, after MPs warned that the growing popularity of the sport could pose health risks.

Michael Meacher, the environment minister, said that before the peak holiday season he would "review" the level of waste treatment that companies use. His promise came as it emerged that some use the most intensive and expensive treatment for only part of the year - although others might be prepared to keep it in use in all 12 months.

Campaigners claim swallowing seawater leads to stomach upsets and sore throats and that viruses are not killed by routine treatment.

Mr Meacher told a Commons environment sub committee: "Secondary treatment does provide a higher level of protection all year round ... but we are talking about tertiary treatment and whether that should be turned off for part of the year ... We have to achieve a balance between cost and public health and I agree that public health must be dominant."

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