Suffolk beach fails quality test

FELIXSTOWE'S award-winning European Blue Flag holiday beach has been left out of a guide to Britain's best shores – because it failed a water quality test.

FELIXSTOWE'S award-winning European Blue Flag holiday beach has been left out of a guide to Britain's best shores – because it failed a water quality test.

Organisers of the Good beach Guide 2003 say while the resort's south beach meets the toughest EC standards, it cannot recommend it for visitors because not every sample passed the sewage bacteria analysis.

One sample failed a test for total and faecal coliforms and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says there could be a risk of stomach infections for bathers, especially as the designated swimming area is off the beach.

But council tourism officials are puzzled by the MCS's attitude as the beach – between the pier and the funfair – has won a Blue Flag three years running and is likely to do so again when the awards are announced next month.

It also joins the north beach – from the pier to Cobbold's Point – which has been included in this year's MCS Good Beach Guide.

Juliette Camburn, Good Beach Guide officer, said: "Twenty samples are taken on the beaches between May and September and analysed for total and faecal coliforms and faecal streptococci.

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"Beaches can pass the EC standards, even the tougher guideline test, as Felixstowe south did, without all the samples passing the test.

"Felixstowe south passed 95pc, failing one, but we only recommend those beaches which pass 100pc of the tests – otherwise it is felt there is still a risk of someone getting a stomach bug."

She did not know why the south beach might have failed and said it could have been heavy rainfall washing material out of the storm drains into the sea just before the sample was taken or a fault in a sewage system overflow.

Suffolk Coastal council though has been left disappointed that the reputation of such a successful beach – which has passed the EC mandatory and guideline tests ever since the Anglian Water Clearwater scheme stopped the pumping off raw sewage into the sea five years ago – has been tarnished.

Tourism and resort manager Valerie Donovan was delighted with the inclusion again of the north beach in the national guide, but said the omission of the south shore was "bizarre".

"It is strange and intriguing because the two beaches are next to each other and last year were both featured," she said.

"Recognition for beaches in these guides and the awards of flags is becoming more important because visitors are becoming more discerning. People do take into account whether a beach has an award for its cleanliness in deciding whether to visit."

Last month The Dip and the south beach again won yellow flags in the annual Seaside Awards made by environmental group EnCams.

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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