Southend Council is warning bathers not to use a Leigh beach after raised levels of dangerous bacteria was found.

Water at Bell Wharf water has been reclassified as “poor” following test results which revealed the presence of E-coli and intestinal enterocci, most commonly found in faeces.

Sampling of the bathing water quality at Leigh Bell Wharf in 2018 had shown an overall improvement against the previous year. However, as bathing waters are classified according to the average sampling results over a four-year period, the latest result means that Leigh Bell Wharf now falls below the level required for a “sufficient” rating.

In the coming days, Southend Council officers will erect signs bearing the words "advice against bathing" at the beach. Similar advice will also be given on the council’s and the Visit Southend website.

Since raised levels of bacteria were identified in samples, Southend Council, The Environment Agency and Anglian Water have been working closely together to tackle potential sources of contamination and help the beach regain a rating of “sufficient” or higher.

Scott Dolling, director of culture, tourism and property at Southend Council, said: “Clearly, it is very disappointing that the bathing waters at Leigh Bell Wharf have been reclassified, despite the improved water quality last year.

“However, we have a duty to ensure that the public is able to make informed choices about whether or not to swim in our coastal waters and that is exactly what we are doing.

“Over the past months, we have been working hard with the Environment Agency and Anglian Water, who own the sewage system, to identify possible sources of contamination and take action. Together, we aim to improve the bathing water quality, improve future sampling results and see the beach reclassified as at least “sufficient” in future years. However, until then, we advise the public not to bathe there.”

Anna Burns, Area Environment Manager at the Environment Agency said: “Despite the deterioration in the overall classification, we were encouraged to see the improvement in last year’s bathing water results for Leigh. We are committed to continuing our work with Anglian Water and Southend Council to eliminate pollution sources and improve water quality again this season.

An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “We have invested over £150,000 towards understanding the issues affecting Leigh Bell Wharf bathing waters. Together with Southend Council and the Environment Agency, we are using state-of-the-art technology including CCTV, dye tracing, sampling and on-foot surveys of the coastal area surrounding the bathing water to understand what is causing the issue.

“We also continue to monitor our equipment to ensure it is working as well as it should. Although it is likely to be the result of several sources of environmental pollution having a combined detrimental effect, we remain committed to working together to improve the bathing water for beach-goers in Southend.”