Oil prompts beach warning

BEACH walkers at Felixstowe were today warned to beware after oil from a slick off the Suffolk coast was washed onto the resort's award-winning shores.

By Richard Cornwell

BEACH walkers at Felixstowe were today warned to beware after oil from a slick off the Suffolk coast was washed onto the resort's award-winning shores.

Anglers discovered to their cost deposits of a sticky tar-like substance all along the resort's five-mile coast over the weekend – with clothes and equipment getting coated in the mess.

Today Environment Agency officials confirmed that the deposits on the Blue Flag beaches were from the slick which last week left reserve beaches in the Dunwich area contaminated and more than 100 seabirds dead.

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Evening Star angling columnist Ian Bowell, who was part of a masters' fishing final taking place at the weekend, said anglers had found oil all along Felixstowe's shores and at East Lane, Bawdsey.

"It's not so much a question of where was it as to where wasn't it," said Mr Bowell.

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"It was all over the place in clumps, sticking to the stones. Most people didn't notice it until it was too late and it was on their clothes and equipment. It is a great shame."

Richard Woollard, principle communications officer for the Environment Agency in the Anglian Region, said: "This oil has almost certainly all come from the same source. Deposits have been found over a widespread area – from Essex, all along the Suffolk coast and even in Norfolk.

"The source is still not known. The Maritime Coastguard Agency has planes which look for oil slicks and indeed spotted this one, but it is very difficult to tell who was responsible."

Information on the effects of the oil spill were still being gathered and a full investigation is under way.

All efforts were being made to discover the source of the pollutant, and if the company or individual responsible for the incident are found then they would face prosecution.

Although the oil slick was initially seven miles from the Suffolk coastline near Aldeburgh, it was broken up by the waves and then moved on shore by strong south easterly winds.

Most of the oil has been found in the seaweed and detritus at the high water mark. RSPCA, English Nature and RSPB have been collecting many oiled birds along the coast for remedial treatment where possible.

Warnings of oil on beaches have been posted and put on display and local authorities are cleaning priority areas of affected material.

The agency said no further oil is currently washing ashore from the sea and MCA aerial reconnaissance has shown that offshore areas no longer contain any significant amounts of oil. However, all beach areas will be very closely monitored over the next few days.

The oil's arrival has mirrored the bad old days of the 1960s and 70s when heavy "tar" regularly polluted beaches until action was taken to clean them up.

The problems on the Suffolk coast are not as serious as those in Spain where volunteers are still battling to deal with an environmental catastrophe caused by the sinking of a supertanker.

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