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Europe

Europe's Beaches (Mostly) Clean, Says Report

The vast majority of the European Union's waters are clean enough to swim in, though the number of banned sites in Italy has reached record heights, according to an EU report.

People sunbathing on the beach in Alassio, Italy

300 beaches in Italy have been closed due to unclean water

The European Commission's annual bathing water report said that 95.2 percent of coastal bathing areas and 88.7 percent of rivers and lakes complied with the bloc's strict rules on water cleanliness in 2007.

The figures, which were released on Monday, June 2, were marginally down from a year earlier, prompting EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas to note that while "a slight downward trend can be observed ... bathing water quality remains high in the European Union."

But in one of the continent's most popular holiday destinations, Italy, the number of banned beaches rose to 300, up from 262 in 2006 and from just 125 in 2002.

However, officials in Brussels noted that this increase showed that Italy was serious about tackling its dirty bathing waters.

German beaches getting dirtier

At the same time, the percentage of dirty coastal bathing areas was stable in Italy but on the rise in other countries, with beaches in Germany, Britain and Portugal slipping the most.

In Germany, 93.7 percent of the beaches met the EU hygiene standards, down 4 percent from last year's ranking. Britain's rating dropped by 3 points, to 96.5 percent. A British diplomat in Brussels attributed the slippage to the flood there, the worst in 60 years, which caused sewers to overflow into the ocean.

Overall, the cleanest bathing waters were found in Greece, Cyprus, Finland and the Netherlands. The Dutch made the top grade, with all of their 86 tested beaches meeting the hygiene standards for the third year running.

That data refers to the EU's annual report, meaning that more up-to-date information would have to be obtained from the local media, officials said.

Click on the link below to check the water quality of any EU beach, river or lake by consulting an interactive map.

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