Residents’ anger as sea still unsafe for swimming

Littlestone beach in Kent
Littlestone beach placed in the top five of the Brown Flag Awards for the dirtiest in the UK [Getty Images]

Residents and businesses in Kent have expressed their frustration that the sea remains unsafe for swimming more than a year after it was first declared hazardous.

Littlestone and St Mary’s Bay beaches have been placed in the top five of the Brown Flag Awards for the dirtiest in the UK.

The owner of a nearby holiday retreat said: “We’re not a third world country. The water quality should be excellent in this day and age.”

Southern Water admitted the water quality in the area was not good enough.

St Mary’s Bay is rated poor by the Environment Agency, while Dymchurch Beach is rated adequate – up from poor last year.

Karl Emanuelsson, who runs Beach Sun Retreat in Dymchurch, said the beach used to be a draw for visitors.

“It’s extremely frustrating because we try our best to create world class facilities,” he said.

“But when people find out that the water quality is not as good as it should be, they get disappointed.”

A dog walker in St Mary’s Bay said the water quality was keeping tourists away from the area.

“Southern Water need to get their act together,” he told BBC Radio Kent.

Dymchurch beach in Kent
A businessman in Dymchurch said the beach used to be a draw for visitors [Getty Images]

Southern Water said there was no single issue that impacted the bathing water quality on the beaches.

“We have to make sure, as Southern Water, that we get our own house in order. That is critical to improving bathing water quality,” open-water lead Tom Gallagher said.

He added that all the agencies recently got together to discuss the problem.

On BBC's South East Today Mr Gallagher was asked if he would take his family on a holiday to St Mary's Bay and let them swim in the sea.

He said: "Would I feel safe taking my children there? Yes, I would.”

Pete Ehmann, of the Environment Agency, said it was conducting intensive monitoring programmes to understand where the pollution sources were coming from.

“Then we will action things to eliminate those pollution sources and reduce the risks to bathers in those areas,” he said.

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