Heavy rain ruins Blue Flag hopes this year

SUMMER deluges four years ago have cost Bognor Regis the top water quality award for this summer.

The downpours dirtied the seawater off the town’s beach so much the impact is being felt in 2014. Recent tougher rules to qualify for the European Blue Flag mean it is only awarded to beaches with four years of clean bathing water. This means less than 100 e-coli bacteria in 100ml of water.

But the effect of the unseasonal weather Bognor suffered in 2010 meant excess water from gutters and overflows from storm outfalls went straight into the sea.

The bad news was delivered by Arun District Council’s marketing, events and filming officer Phil Graham to its leisure, tourism and infrastructure working group.

Mr Graham told last Wednesday’s meeting: “Bognor doesn’t unfortunately qualify for the Blue Flag this year.

“There was some exceptional rainfall in August, 2010, throughout that period leading up to the samples being taken.

“One particularly poor spell has dragged the overall result down.”

The result is typical of Bognor’s Blue Flag history. It has been awarded the ultimate seaside symbol 12 times since the 1990s.

But it has rarely held the accolade for long because of the risk of heavy rain ruining the water.

The Blue Flag is awarded annually to UK qualifying beaches by the Foundation for Environmental Education. The water samples which count towards the result are taken by the Environment Agency for 20 weeks from May to September.

Mr Graham said the failures from August 2010 would not be counted towards next year’s assessment for a Blue Flag.

“Hopefully, providing the weather is good this summer, Bognor should qualify in 2015,” he said.

Committee chairman Cllr Dr James Walsh (LD, Beach) said it was important to note that Bognor’s sea water had generally matched the Blue Flag standard.

“Just one blip in 2010 means that it has not qualified,” he said. “That’s an important message to get across. Bognor is not consistently failing. It’s all due to a failure in 2010.”

He said Southern Water should be asked to look into solving the the problem of the combined storm drains and sewers under the town’s older parts.

Cllr Jim Brooks (I, Marine) said: “It’s depressing we have not got the Blue Flag in Bognor.

“I remember 15-20 years ago when we had the sewer pipeline laid from Bognor to the works at Ford it was supposed to be the answer to all our problems.

“We need to keep the pressure on all the water authorities about this. We need to press for all the best methods of making sure our water passes.”

Bognor should get a National Seaside Award which needs a lower level of water quality.