Rogue test robs Felixstowe of flag

TOURISM chiefs today blamed a "rogue one-off" test failure for robbing Felixstowe's Blue Flag beach of its place in a guide to the country's best shores.

By Richard Cornwell

TOURISM chiefs today blamed a "rogue one-off" test failure for robbing Felixstowe's Blue Flag beach of its place in a guide to the country's best shores.

Officers at Suffolk Coastal council are confident that the omission is just a blip and the resort's south beach will win back its place next year.

But they admitted that one Environment Agency sea water test last summer had found sewage bacteria levels 2,000 times higher than the previous week's sample – and they just don't know why.

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"It is unfair that the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has downgraded Felixstowe South which has a long and proud record of excellent water quality, and we have no doubts that it will be reinstated to its proper position next year," said a council spokesman.

"The results used by the MCS as the basis for its survey are from the Environment Agency which last year carried out 20 tests at both Felixstowe's south and north beaches.

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"Nineteen of the 20 at Felixstowe south gained an excellent result, but one on June 20 last year was completely out of line with every other test – with figures that were nearly 2,000 times higher than the previous week's test.

"Tests done on the same day showed nothing unusual at the adjacent north beach.

"The official records of the Environment Agency points to the conclusion that these tests were a rogue one-off."

Since 1994, the Environment Agency has carried out 20 tests a year, and each year Felixstowe South has earned the status of excellent. Nearly all the tests found that there was excellent water quality, and the only times it wavered from excellent it still gained a good status.

"This one result from last June really should not be given any serious credence – people should listen to the official results from the Environment Agency and come on in at Felixstowe south as the water quality is officially excellent," said the council spokesman.

The MCS, which publishes the Good Beach Guide 2003, admits that Felixstowe south beach, which runs from the pier to the funfair and is a designated area for swimmers, does meet the toughest EC standards.

But it cannot recommend it for visitors because not every sample passed the sewage bacteria analysis – and its recommended beaches must pass every test otherwise there is the risk of swimmers getting a stomach infection.

Juliette Camburn, Good Beach Guide officer, said the MCS reviewed the results of bathing water quality monitoring from 812 beaches with a record 421 recommended for the guide.


n What do you think – are you confident the sea at Felixstowe is clean and safe? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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