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Malta has second cleanest sea water

Malta last year had the cleanest bathing waters in the EU after Cyprus and has been dubbed a “star” by the European Commission for its improvement in trying to keep its seas in a pristine state.

The island is reaping the fruits of a multi-million euro investment, supported by EU funds, to construct three sewage treatment plants, which has helped it improve its coastal waters by leaps and bounds.

Every single one of the 87 bathing sites tested not only reached minimum EU standards but 95 per cent of them have been given top marks and rated “excellent”, according to the latest bathing water report issued by the Commission in Brussels yesterday.

Only four bathing areas fell short of that mark, with three considered “good quality” and just one, the area next to Xagħjra’s sewage pumping station, considered to be of “sufficient” quality. However, the Xagħjra area is expected to improve this year as a new sewage treatment plant, the largest one of the three constructed, was opened at the end of last year.

Only seven years ago, on EU accession, half Malta’s bathing sites did not meet the required standards.

“Malta has made huge progress in this area since its accession to the EU and this augurs well for Malta’s tourist industry,” an EU official told The Times yesterday.

“Malta has the second cleanest bathing waters in the EU and has even managed to surpass Greece – considered top notch in this area,” the official remarked.

In 2009 Malta had already managed to impress the Commission by the rapid progress made in the quality of its bathing waters. By that year it had managed to reach a 93 per cent “excellent quality” mark.

According to the latest report, Malta continued to better the quality of its waters in 2010 by transforming two other bathing sites from “good” to “excellent”.

According to an EU directive, member states are bound to examine the quality of their coastal bathing waters on a regular basis particularly on a number of criteria including health hazards.

The Commission’s report shows a slight decline in the quality of the EU’s bathing waters although overall quality was still high. More than 90 per cent of bathing water sites met the minimum requirements.

In Cyprus, 100 per cent of its bathing water sites meet the highest standards. After Malta, Greece achieved 94 per cent and Ireland 90 per cent.

This year the Commission has also adopted new signs and ­symbols that will be used to inform the public on bathing water classification and on bathing restrictions.