Bathing water around Britain is being DNA tested in the first scheme to use forensic science techniques to identify precise sources of pollution.
Environment Agency inspectors are collecting samples of sea water and sending them to a laboratory where they are analysed using a process similar to that employed to catch sex offenders and other criminals. The aim is to identify the particular farm or sewage outlet where pollution came from and to take enforcement action against the individuals or companies responsible.
The tests, known as microbial source tracking, identify whether any faecal matter came from humans, sheep, cows, pigs, horses or other farm animals. The agency expects to be able to prove for the first time that birds gathering in large numbers can have an adverse impact on bathing water quality.