SWansea History Web. Looki9ng at social history in Swansea, South Wales.

Swansea Slip:decline and fall

Up ] Early bathing in Swansea Bay ] The Slip emerges ] Swansea Slip : the place to be... ] Swansea Slip: The place to be (continued) ] [ Swansea Slip:decline and fall ] Swansea Slip: Cleaning up the act ] Swansea Bay : The cleanup starts here ] Building a bridge at Swansea Slip ] The Swansea Slip Bridge ] Bert and Dick at the Beach ] Early Swansea sewerage schemes ] Swansea's Main Drainage Scheme ] Swansea's Main Drainage Scheme (Continued) ] A Map of Swansea's Main Drainage Scheme ] Swansea's sewerage system under Mumbles Head ] The Mumbles Head sewer outfall ] Slip Statistics ]

Years of heavy industrial pollution and the shortcomings of the Main Drainage scheme eventually took their toll on the waters of Swansea Bay. Dissatisfaction with the state of bathing water in the bay coincided with greater realisation of the beauty (and cleanliness) of the Gower beaches. Rapid increase in car ownership brought the Gower beaches into the reach of large numbers of Swansea citizens who could easily see the difference in quality of bathing water from the green murk of the Bay to the fresh clear water of an Oxwich or Port Eynon.

By the mid-1970s, various local authorities had begun collecting comprehensive data, measuring the inputs into the Bay. In addition to the sewage discharge from Mumbles Head, the Tawe and Neath rivers were dumping massive quantities of industrial as well as domestic waste into the Bay. It was obvious that the simple screening process that the Mumbles Outfall was operating was neither helpful nor effective. The solution of the 1930s was no longer acceptable.

 Swansea Slip in 1997. With the Slip Bridge in the background.

Regular data sampling of conditions in the Bay enabled further investigation into the sources of pollution. Widespread availability of the data meant that Swansea Bay’s problems were well publicised. A significant milestone was an article in New Scientist dated July 1981, where Swansea Bay was singled out as being one of the filthiest bays in Britain;‘A pleasant sandy bay ruined by raw sewage and industrial discharges. Heavy metal contamination from mercury and lead is the worst in Britain.’ Put simply, Swansea Bay was unfit for use. The message went far and wide and the public voted with their feet. By the mid-1980s, the Bay was saddled with a dreadful reputation for filth, and the beach was largely devoid of bathers, most people trekking to the beaches of Gower as an alternative.

Dissatisfaction with dumping raw sewage into the sea was not just a local issue. All across Britain, criticism emerged about the way in which our coasts were being abused. Anecdotal evidence of people contracting various gastrointestinal diseases after bathing were being increasingly substantiated by scientific evidence. A close study of the water dynamics of Swansea Bay revealed that most of the material released at Mumbles was eventually finding its way back onto the beach. A study of 1983 confirmed that the Mumbles Head outfall was completely inadequate for the job of distributing sewage into the Bristol Channel and away from the beaches. Swansea City Council started regular bacteriological sampling on local beaches in 1982, not surprisingly Swansea Bay has been a regular failure of all tests

 
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SHW's Book of the Month:

Salt by Mark Kurlansky

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This is not a local history book and Mark Kurlansky is a journalist not a local historian. Nevertheless he has produced a fascinating history of one of the world's basic commodities. I first came across Kurlansky with his book about the history of Cod. I think anyone who wants to know about the history of the Bristol Channel has to be familiar with the fish and how it encouraged Bristol fishermen to discover the Grand Banks. Salt is another offbeat yet fundamental bit of our history. We've had a popular web page on salt for ages and Swansea had a Salthouse Point at the mouth of the River Tawe for centuries. Kurlansky takes you on a journey across space and time to discover the importance of salt for mankind. From Jericho to Gandhi, salt has had an important part to play. This is a lovely book that enhances the quality of history for it adds depth and value to something we use every day. (Nigel Robins)

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