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Nearly 95% of Finland's swimming waters clean, European Environment Agency reports

The EU water quality assessment does not include toxic blue-green algae blooms, though.

A lifeguard sits in a chair with people standing and sitting on the beach in the background at Tuomiojärvi beach in Jyväskylä.
Tuomiojärvi beach, maintained by the City of Jyväskylä. Image: Jarkko Riikonen / Yle
Yle News,

Finland's public swimming beaches are safe to use, according to a fresh report on swimming water cleanliness by the European Environment Agency.

It classed nearly 95 percent of Finland's swimming waters as adequate or of good quality. The assessment included all of Finland's public beaches.

As of last summer, there were 303 such beaches, with 225 of them by the sea and 78 on inland waters.

Around 1.7 percent of Finland's beaches were deemed merely satisfactory — the lowest acceptable category for safe bathing. Seven other beaches (2.3%) were considered poor, reflecting an increase of three beaches in that category since the last assessment was conducted.

Four new beaches were not categorised yet due to an insufficient period of monitoring.

The study's safety classification was based on bacteria levels (E. coli and intestinal enterococci) in the water, the presence of which suggest pollution from sewage and livestock, according to the agency.

"Based on the levels of bacteria detected, bathing water quality is then classified as 'excellent', 'good', 'sufficient' or 'poor'," the agency said in a brief about the results on Friday.

Modelled on the EU's Bathing Water Directive, the classification is based on four years of monitoring.

There were some negative developments seen in the results, according to Outi Zacheus, a specialist in water issues at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

Zacheus pointed out that even though Finland's waters were considered to be largely in good condition, the number of beaches not meeting safety standards had increased.

"The swimming water at some beaches has been classified as bad for consecutive years, with wild animal excrement and stormwater from urban areas deteriorating the quality of swimming water," she said.

However, intermittent toxic blue-green algae blooms are not included in the water quality assessment.

Zacheus said that the detection of the algae blooms can result in local authorities temporarily shutting down beaches to swimmers on safety grounds. This typically occurs after a period of warm, calm weather.

Children and pets must not be allowed to swim in water contaminated by blue-green algae, and grown-ups should also avoid swimming, according to the Finnish Environment Institute (Syke).

The European Environment Agency's report contains country-specific summaries of swimming water quality and the results of around approximately 22,000 public beaches across the bloc.

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