BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's beaches became more polluted with bacteria from the sewage of humans or livestock last year, the European Union's environmental watchdog said on Thursday.
The European Environment Agency (EEA), which monitors 22,000 bathing sites, reported a 3.5 percent drop in the number of swimming areas meeting the basic standards for intestinal bacteria such as E.coli and fecal streptococci.
It also reported a 9.5 percent fall in the number meeting its more stringent "guide values" for the cleanest water.
"A trend downwards, which was already visible in 2009, has been unfortunately confirmed," European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik told reporters. "The quantity of coastal bathing waters meeting excellent quality standards dropped."
The decline was notable in some of the Mediterranean's traditional beach resorts. Compliance with the stricter "guide values" fell 7.1 percent in Portugal, 13.6 percent in Italy, 5.6 percent in Greece, 5.9 percent in Spain and 28 percent in France.
By contrast, resorts in Malta improved, and those in Cyprus and Slovenia were almost perfectly compliant. (Reporting by Pete Harrison and Alysha Love; editing by David Stamp)