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Dirty sea water alerts harm town’s tourism business

SEVEN pollution alerts were issued for Felpham’s bathing water last summer.


The alarms were raised by the Environment Agency based on its prediction of the effect of heavy rainfall on bacteria levels in the water.


There were also six alerts for Aldwick during May to September when the water was sampled 20 times. The numbers compare favourably with the ten warnings for Felpham in 2015 and 11 for Aldwick.


They were revealed by Arun District Council’s environmental health manager, Nat Slade, as councillors reviewed the first six months of pollution warning signs on the area’s seafronts. Mr Slade told the environmental services and leisure working group the two locations had the strongest risk between the amount of rainfall and sea pollution based on an analysis of 15 years of bathing water test results.


“These risks are calculated and issued each day based on the actual and forecast levels of rainfall in the catchment which affects the bathing water,” he said.


None of this year’s samples, however, was taken on days when the risk was forecast. But Cllr Jim Brooks (I, Marine) told last week’s meeting the signs were harmful to tourism around the town.


He said the notices – on Felpham and Aldwick promenades – were a permanent reminder to people that sewage could be present in the sea water. They warn of short-term pollution from livestock, sewage and urban drainage.


“It’s an absolutely gross notice,” said Cllr Brooks. “That’s all that people see when they come to our place. It’s up there all the time whether there’s a risk or not.


We need to advise people but why aren’t the notices put up when there’s a risk. We are not able to prove whether the risk warnings prove to be actual occasions.” A red flag could be flown as an alternative warning, he said.


Cllr Dr James Walsh (LD, Littlehampton Beach) welcomed the signs. He said he took part in a delegation to Brussels 20 years ago to ensure European laws which demanded cleaner bathing waters were applied to British seafronts.


“There was faecal contamination because raw sewage was pumped out to sea. At least we are giving the information to the public when they know the risk is there,” he said.


* Nat Slade said Aldwick, Felpham and Middleton were among 21 shortlisted sites across the Southern Water area which could benefit from a £31m fund to improve bathing waters to an excellent standard. The money will be shared between the seven chosen locations.

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