Palma has had well-publicised problems with faecal spills. | Miquel À. Cañellas

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The Balearic government department that monitors the quality of bathing water reports that this decreased from a 93% excellence rating in 2013 to 71% in 2021.

Ibiza had the most faecal contamination, but the department highlights the bays of Palma and Pollensa in Mallorca as being particularly problematic because of repeated discharges of wastewater.

This year's schedule is for 1,719 samples to be taken at 191 different points in the 32 coastal municipalities. This sampling started on May 9 and will end on October 6. Francisca Panadés, the head of the department, explains that a visual inspection of the water and the sand is carried out and that a sample of seawater is analysed to detect the presence of Escherichia coli or intestinal Enterococcus.

These two bacteria are indicators of faecal contamination. "The first is not very resistant in the water. If we detect it, this means that the discharge was recent. The other indicates that it is from a while back."

So far this summer, analyses have led to beaches being declared unsuitable for bathing on fifteen occasions. Panadés says that town halls are informed so that "they can carry out studies and tell us what is happening". The most common causes are wastewater that is poorly pumped, which causes a spill, or that the sewers are in poor condition. "Finding a remedy is another matter, because sewage systems are municipal and the treatment plants come under the environment ministry and no one wants to accept the blame."