Maltese bathing waters are officially the cleanest in Europe, alongside those of Cyprus and Luxembourg.

The European Commission yesterday described the island’s swimming zones as “excellent”.

A detailed report on European bathing water, conducted in 2014, found that Malta’s 87 swimming zones were all compliant with quality assurance tests.

The island’s beaches achieved the highest possible grade, with a 100 per cent approval rating. This is a mere one per cent increase over last year’s results but has seen Malta join Cyprus in the top spot, from second in 2013.

Tests were carried out by local authorities during last year’s bathing season, with samples taken from coastal zones and analysed for two types of bacteria: Escherichia Coli and Intestinal Enterococci.

The presence of either of these would indicate pollution, usually originating from sewage or livestock waste. No such contamination, however, was confirmed in any of the samples taken locally.

The report was unveiled by European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella in a tweet yesterday. He said 95 per cent of the monitored bathing sites across Europe had met minimum standards for water quality.

Until a few years ago, Malta’s bathing water conditions were classified ‘poor’. However, the investment of tens of millions in EU funds in modern waste-water treatment facilities, enabling sewage to be treated before it is dumped at sea, has nudged Malta to the top of Europe’s bathing water quality scale.

On the other hand, the countries with the highest number of closed bathing areas were Germany, with nine, and Italy, six.

Some 409 poor bathing sites were identified across Europe.

Italy, which is home to a third of all Europe’s coastal bathing sites, had the largest number of “poor” beaches, 107, followed by France, 105, and Spain, 67.

Meanwhile, according to the European Commission’s latest report on the Nitrates Directive, Malta and Germany have the EU’s most polluted groundwater by nitrates.

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