Water shame! Seaburn Beach loses coveted Blue Flag status

Coun John Wiper and Coun George Howe down on the seafront at Seaburn which has just lost its Blue Flag status.
Coun John Wiper and Coun George Howe down on the seafront at Seaburn which has just lost its Blue Flag status.
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SEABURN Beach has been stripped of its Blue Flag status.

The news comes after the Echo revealed in July that its neighbour, Roker Beach, had also lost the internationally recognised benchmark standard for beaches.

High levels of rainfall, which affected water samples, have been blamed for the loss of status, which was only granted to the resort in May.

It means both beaches are now without the coveted title at a time when the council is ploughing hundreds of thousands of pounds into redeveloping Sunderland’s seafront to pull in more visitors.

A spokesman for the Environment Agency, which tests water samples from the beach, said: “The unprecedented levels of rainfall in May and June have led to increased run-off and poorer bathing water quality at Seaburn beach.

“However, following a reduction in rainfall since the early summer, it is expected that the water quality will return to previous levels, as are usually seen at Seaburn.”

The international scheme, issued by Keep Britain Tidy, is run every year and acts as a guarantee to visitors that the beach is of a high standard.

Roker Beach lost its Blue Flag after figures showed three breaches of the maximum level of the bacteria intestinal enterococci, often found in human waste.

Campaigners said they are concerned about levels of cleanliness at both beaches.

Environmental enthusiast Bob Latimer, from Latimer’s Deli in Whitburn, said: “If you look at the beach, it’s the best thing Sunderland’s got but surfers are having to turn back because of the sewage in the water.

“It’s a terrible thing to lose Blue Flag status but, hopefully, this time someone may sit up and take notice and do something about it.”

He added: “Storm water is just an excuse, the fact is that the storm tunnel in Seaburn is spilling raw sewage into the sea.”

Fulwell ward councillor George Howe added: “I’m not surprised that Seaburn has now lost its Blue Flag, it’s so close to Roker that it was inevitably going to happen.

“What concerns me is sewage going into the sea is macerated and appears as foam and scum. Even when these colonies of bacteria were found at Roker they were still allowing people to swim between the piers.”

Coun John Kelly, portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “We are obviously disappointed that Seaburn has now temporarily lost Blue Flag status.

“We are determined to work hard to regain it as soon as is practically possible. We should add that both Roker and Seaburn beaches retain Quality Coast accreditation.

“The city council has no control over the surface water draining from the land into rivers and seas after extreme rainfall, and storm water also bypasses the sewer system in flood conditions.

“This run-off can all have a significantly detrimental effect on water samples.”

A spokeswoman for Northumbrian Water, which is responsible for sewerage systems in the city, said: “We check all of our sewerage assets regularly, including those in this area, on a regular basis and after major rainfall events, and we are confident that they have operated as they are designed to do.”

Due to the exceptionally wet weather this summer, Keep Britain Tidy has also withdrawn the Blue Flag from 14 other beaches.

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