On the front page of today's Isle of Thanet Gazette I see the three main tourist beaches in Thanet have lost their blue flag awards. Obviously such news is a bitter blow to those who care and probably puts a small dent in the tourism trade. Obviously this is disappointing news but I cannot understand why there should be so much gloom over the issue , because by comparison to the situation in the past, today's Thanet beaches have come a long way.
For decades the sea has been a convenient dustbin and a extension of our sewage system. In the Victorian era we had Typhoid and Cholera outbreaks due to the sudden increase in population over the summer months. I can even think back to 35 years ago when fat from the sewage outfalls would coat flotsam in Northerly winds, I can remember the mass of beach litter on the tide, I can remember sewage slicks and toilet paper at Foreness. Also I can remember mass deaths of crabs from the sudden release of fresh water from storm drains. The list is about as long as my arm.
Today the situation is so much different as the sea and beaches are so much cleaner, we even have thriving oyster and prawn populations. Also the beach litter problems from the tide are greatly reduced.
Scientifically I do believe we still have a problem and we always will until the discharges into the sea stop. The results can be up and down which is far better than constantly bad and that leaves the big question. What would happen if every single discharge into the sea from Thanet was to stop would we still have blue flag failures as there is a frightening prospect it could be yes.
During this past winter I extended my search area as a coastal warden of the Western Undercliff to take in Pegwell Bay, where there is a noticeable pattern that a part of Pegwell Bay is a dumping ground of all the debris picked up by the tide in South Westerly winds. It appears the tidal currents from the Channel that run into the Downs across the Sandwich flats deposit into Pegwell Bay. That probably explains how the beached Sperm Whale appeared there and the deposits of sea coal. Unfortunately it is a vehicle to import pollution but even though at present it can look unsightly there is little visible impact on the marine life as the debris is inert, that is unless something serious happens further down the coast like a discharge.
In Pegwell Bay at present the good news is the Lugworm population is strong and I have been informed that this year there will be a commercial cockle harvest.