Over a period of several weeks during the summer of 1996, samples of sewage, sea water, river water, sand and silt were collected from a sewage works at Weston-super-Mare, England and from coastal areas nearby. A sensitive reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to search for human astrovirus (HAstV) RNA in concentrates of the samples. No evidence of astrovirus was found in any sample, which suggests that contamination with these viruses is not a problem in this area during the summer holiday season. Furthermore, the single case of astrovirus diarrhoea diagnosed in this laboratory in the summer occurred at the end of the sampling period, and not in the survey area. The primers used sometimes yielded a product two-thirds the expected size but bearing no sequence homology with HAstV. The confirmation that poliovirus adsorbs to sand and silt shows that these materials might be able to concentrate other enteric viruses in water to a level which could be a threat to the health of people coming into contact with it.