Council examining ways to remove stinking gas-releasing seaweed in Birchington and Westgate

District councillor George Kup has raised the seaweed issue

Thanet council has pledged to take more action to remove stinking seaweed, which is also causing release of hydrogen sulphide gas, from bays in Westgate and Birchington.

Council staff will visit a number of the more isolated bays this week to see what can be done about removal and is also in communication with Public Health England about monitoring the levels of hydrogen sulphide and investigating any potential impact.

Residents have complained of an ‘overpowering stench’ and say the Hydrogen sulphide gas being emitted is even causing corrosion at nearby properties and turning wood and other materials black.

Hydrogen sulphide, which is a colourless gas, occurs naturally in some environments such as the decomposition of organic material.Although the body can rapidly metabolise the gas it can result in symptoms such as headache, fatigue and nausea.

Birchington Councillor George Kup says this year’s levels of seaweed blanketing Minnis Bay and surrounding bays is the worst he has seen in 23 years.

The stench has also affected Westgate although residents report that it is much reduced today (August 17).

He said: “Nearly every summer we see the level of seaweed increase on the beaches in Thanet. However I don’t believe that in the 23 years I have lived in Birchington we have seen this amount of seaweed.

“As a Birchington district councillor and as MP Sir Roger Gale’s Parliamentary Assistant. I have been putting a lot of pressure on Thanet District Council to get the seaweed removed.

Seaweed at Grenham Bay

“I have been told by a reliable source that Minnis Bay is cleared when public safety  and the tides allow it to be removed  at low water and when the beaches are empty. It is then deposited on the land around Thanet.

“However, I am aware that the biggest problem is from Epple Bay to Grenham Bay. I have pushed TDC regarding this but have been told there are issues from not being able to get vehicles down to the beach to clear it to the bays which are not bathing beaches.

“I do not believe this is good enough and I am asking the council to find a solution to getting these beaches cleared, especially as people’s health is now becoming a real concern. If it is possible to launch a speedboat then It has to be possible to get a tractor and trailer down onto the shore.

“I know that it feels as though we aren’t being listened too, but myself, Sir Roger and other councillors are doing what we can to ensure residents’ voices are heard.”

Thanet council leader Rick Everitt said: “Seaweed is a natural occurrence on our coastline and the chalk reef where it grows is protected by law meaning we are not able to remove as much as some people might like.

“This year has seen unusually high levels of seaweed, no doubt exacerbated by the calm weather and high temperatures. We have already collected well over 500 tonnes this season, which is more than the previous three years.

“We are committed to keeping our beaches looking beautiful and every year apply for a licence from The Environment Agency to remove seaweed in line with Natural England’s guidelines. We have been actively managing Minnis Bay and St Mildred’s Bay this season as we know that the high temperatures have meant that the deposits of seaweed can smell.

“We want to reassure residents that we are taking their concerns seriously. We will be visiting the more isolated bays in the area this week to see if anything might be possible in regards to removal. We would need to involve both Natural England and the Environment Agency in discussions if any potential options are found.

“We are also in communication with Public Health England about potentially monitoring the levels of hydrogen sulphide and investigating any potential impact.”

45 Comments

  1. Oh no we can’t have the seaside smelling like the seaside, Especially not near the posh houses on the seafront oh no that would never do. To stop the seaweed growing and the migrants coming across from France in little boats maybe we should drain the English Channel so that those in a posh houses with a big noses don’t have to smell the horrible seaweed that has been part of the sea shore as long as the sea has been there, and the illegals will simply be able to walk across. Now we are being told by the snowflakes among us that the seaweed gives off a gas ( as humans do) that gives the lovelies a headache. For goodness sake what is a matter with some people? It’s a summer smell hot sun smelly seaside. Last week we read of Local tower blocks running a live with bedbugs which is a real health concern and today we read that Thanet district Council is investigating the smell of seaweed one could not make it up.

    • What a silly response. I live in Westgate and not in a silly rich house and the seaweed smell is horrendous and I have been to many coastal places where the the city and town remove rotting seaweed.

    • What a stupid response. The smell this year is the worst we have known in 35 years of living in Birchington and I do not live in a posh house on the seafront. It is a matter for TDC to deal with but I suspect nothing will happen!

    • Who on God’s earth do you think you are?! What a self righteous, smug individual you are!!! We have lived on the cliff top near Beresford Gap for 23 years! Yes, the smell is part of living by the sea! However, this year has been as unprecedented as Covid! Our neighbours’ white soffits & fasciae have turned black, as have all our taps, shower wastes, toilets, EPNS cutlery and jewellery. While these might sound like minor it titrations, as indeed I suppose they are in the wider scheme of things, the hydrogen sulphide is causing genuine health problems! My partner and I are both feeling unwell with fatigue, upset tummies, stinging eyes and throaty coughs, little children next door are feeling poorly and a neighbour down the road nearly blacked out when he inadvertently disturbed a thick crust of seaweed which exuded the noxious gas! I particularly object to your labelling of us as “snowflake s” as being in our early 60s we come from the “make do and mend” generation! Can you say the same, Smug Bill? I highly doubt it!

  2. For goodness sake, it’s nature? Why are we so obsessed with clearing things away. If it’s not seaweed, it’s hedgerows and wildflowers. Why can’t we just let nature do it’s own thing without us having to manicure it. The seaweed smell is part of the experience of living by the sea.

    • Whilst there is some merit in your argument about seaweed, to extend that argument to “hedgerows and wildflowers” is a ruductio ad absurdum. Do you ever travel by road? If, you do then try it with the hedgerows so overgrown they meet in middle. There is already a mountain of legislation protecting hedgerows. As to, wildflowers, the clue is in name and I do not anyone who clears them away.
      May, I suggest you consider a change of name to one that more accurately describes your knowledge base.

    • Some of you STILL don’t get it! The seaweed smell is NOT the problem or the focus of our concerns, it’s the hydrogen sulphide gas emissions! Virtually everything gold coloured in our newly decorated living room is black and ok, this could be viewed as a minor irritation but what really concerns us is the effect it is having on people’s health! If the gas can turn taps, cutlery, jewellery, fascias, soffits, brass, and other gold materials black, what on earth is it doing to us!

  3. This is not exactly a new problem, it happened when I grew up in Margate in the 50s. The council knew how to deal with it then so why not now? Just bloody well do it, not have a ‘committee meeting ’ about it! Good grief!

  4. If some of the bays ‘are not bathing beaches’ (to use George Kups’ interesting description) then why bother removing the seaweed on those beaches?

    • It seems you need to read the article. If you’ve already done so, do it again, & concentrate this time.

      • I have read it again. If certain beaches have few visitors because they’re difficult to get to, why clear them?

    • Because, it will ruin the Holiday trade, Holiday makers, won’t come if we have smelly Beaches, what Holiday trade.

    • The answer is simple! These secluded bays are prefect for a solitary swim and are perfectly accessible but it’s the fact that those of us who live above them on the cliff top are experiencing health problems related to the hydrogen sulphide gas in addition to everything being blackened by the fumes!

  5. I am a70year old born in Westgate, when we were kids we used to jump from the promenade into the seaweed,it never did us any harm,
    It is part of living by the sea and it only lasts a couple of weeks

  6. How is Cllr Kup’s being MP Sir Roger Gale’s Parliamentary Assistant got anything to do with seaweed?
    Does Cllr Kup think that mentioning the sacred name “Roger Gale” will make the seaweed go away?
    It’s surely disrespectful to mention hydrogen sulfide in the same breath as the great man.

  7. I would expect this sort of story on the the 1st of April not in August.
    Bob. NO houses in Thanet are being damaged by the gas from the seaweed it’s pathetic to suggest otherwise.
    TON. In the 50s after their hay had been cut the farmers used to BURN the stubbs of hay off, can you imagine the outcry from the snowflakes and the runner been greens if that still happened today. TDC have far greater things to think about than seaweed on the sea shore.

  8. There are bigger issues in Thanet TDC need to get grips with, especially the spreading Bed Bug epidemic. Mattresses are seen dumped in many streets throughout Cliftonville West, people need to not go near them but TDC are not clearing themaway as quickly as they need to. Funding needs applying for so TDC can rid Thanet residents of the bugs that can live over a year in hibernation, They are extremely difficult to eradicate and it was TDC who put all the homeless into a Cliftonville hotel riddled with them in the first place so they should be sorting it out now those people have spread them all over Thanet as they are given accommodation elsewhere.

    What the devil is Roger Gale complaining about the smell of seaweed for? He has been the main supporter of a new freight airport in Thanet which will cause much bigger environmental pollution with putrid smell and particles from freight plane movements than seaweed. That will pollute a much wider area than just Birchington and Westgate. You can’t make it up, He is unbelievable ! What about standing up for the NHS hospital stroke services at QEQM Roger, do something residents want not what you want, that is what you were ellected for remember.

  9. Has Cllr Kup any idea how much this will cost? It used to be possible to let a local farmer remove it to spread on the fields. No longer possible, once removed becomes toxic waste and costs a fortune to dispose of. Leave it where it is an in one or two months problem gone.

  10. It is so stinky here in Westgate that many of the camper vans that have been here all summer have finally fled… so please leave the seaweed here!

  11. People are really going over board about the seaweed this year.
    Even read on FB Page today that it’s down to lockdown and not so many ships going passed and the run off of fertiliser from farm into the se@ making the sea cabbage grow faster 🤣😂🤣 . J Yes the smell is unpleasant but now the extreme heat has gone the smell will follow. Let nature take its course.

  12. Why TDC should throw all their attention and money in to this natural occurence i don’t know!. Seaweed has been a factor of the seaside for as long as i can remember,it’s part of mother nature and serves as a vital substance for wildlife. Only in extreme hot weather is the odour at its worst and i doubt if it’s responsible for any damage on buildings or jewellery as someone has claimed!..those who are complaining probably aren’t even natives to the area!..If living by the sea and all that it brings is not to your liking then move!..simple!..A priority for TDC is to clamp down on flytipping and rubbish that’s left behind by beach visitors, not removing seaweed!,i would rather stand in smelly seaweed than fight my way through plastic and leftover food that’s left on pavements and the beaches anyday!..They’ll be trying to cull the seagulls next!!!

  13. I did stand in the smelly seaweed and for the record, there were no flies. My feet are now beautifully clean and soft. Just make sure you correctly estimate the depth of it or you’ll be up to your knees. But it’s this natural phenomenon that keeps our sea water clean. Anyone who thinks it smells like sewage has never lived near a treatment plant. I have and it doesn’t smell the same.

  14. I live in Birchington and the smell from Epple Bay has been horrendous over the last 6-8 weeks.-I live near the seafront and the smell has been so Overpowering that I can’t have any windows open in the heat and have become sick twice the smell has been so strong- granted this has been a bad year- hence why it should be cleared

  15. I agree with many of these comments but let’s take a step back from the smell of seaweed, rotten politicians and out of touch TDC senior staff. Thanet is primarily a leisure destination, much of our economy depends on visitors; TDC top priorities should be proper management of our streets and beaches, provision of decent public facilities and a requirement for property owners to smarten up their buildings. Stop wasting money on vanity projects like a railway station at Cliffsend and sort out the stuff that really makes a difference to people’s lives.

  16. In Response to Pearl Barley.
    I live in Birchington, I love nature, I do everything I can to “ save the planet” I use the minimum plastic and throw away as few items as possible. I re use plastic food tubs etc when I have to purchase them to prevent them being deposited in the ocean. Do you live in the grenham Bay Area. I love walking along our rocky beach and watching the birds in the morning and at sunset. I don’t live in a posh house, can’t afford one, but in a small flat.
    The smell of the seaweed this year has stopped us from opening windows in the heat, or evening walking or sitting in the garden.
    I have worn a silver chain and st Christopher for 40 years, it has turned black in the last few days, I’m not the only one to have this happen.
    I know seaweed is natural, but hydrogen sulphide is very unpleasant, especially as strong as it is now.
    Don’t ridicule or criticise until you’ve walked in our shoes.

  17. Some time ago, Farmers were invited to take as much seaweed as they needed/wanted, which they did, until TDC started charging them.
    Often reported, often ignored.

  18. I find it deeply ironic that the very same people who are vocal on social media telling anti airport posters that “the airport was here before you, you can move if you don’t like it” are now up in arms about the seaweed smell from their Westgate / Birchington houses by the sea.

    Last time I checked the sea has been there for about 4 billion years.

    Yes it’s bad this year but it has been just as bad in the past too. In fact it is a major reason why I wouldn’t consider living in those places.

    • Well, not 4 billion years.The planet is only 4.1 billion years old and in that period (Hadean, formerly Pre-Cambrian) Thanet did not exist and the Pre_ Cambrian residents of Westgate/Birchington would have rather more intrusive smells from volcanic activity to worry about.I would say 12,000 years ago or possibly 8,000 once Doggerland was inundated.
      I presume Gold command at TDC will now set up a special task force called ‘Off-Pong’ !

      • “The sea” – not specifically referring to the same body of water that is currently off our coast.

  19. A couple of people in these comments say that people should move away from the seaside if they don’t like the current smell of seaweed. “Move if you don’t like it” really isn’t a helpful thing to tell anybody. It just makes the writer sound like a prat.

  20. TDC priorities are hopelessly out of touch – rotten seaweed, rotten councillors and rotten management, get rid of the lot! Forget the political showboating and empty promises of apple pie and cream tomorrow, let’s have some decent, effective, proactive management today.

  21. The cost of clearing the beaches of seaweed would I guess make TDC bankrupt. The cost would be horrendous.

  22. Hydrogen Sulphide is highly hazardous for health in small concentrations and can kill:-
    10 ppm is the OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) (8 hour time-weighted average).[31]
    10–20 ppm is the borderline concentration for eye irritation.
    20 ppm is the acceptable ceiling concentration established by OSHA.[31]
    50 ppm is the acceptable maximum peak above the ceiling concentration for an 8-hour shift, with a maximum duration of 10 minutes.[31]
    50–100 ppm leads to eye damage.
    At 100–150 ppm the olfactory nerve is paralyzed after a few inhalations, and the sense of smell disappears, often together with awareness of danger.[51][52]
    320–530 ppm leads to pulmonary edema with the possibility of death.[42]
    530–1000 ppm causes strong stimulation of the central nervous system and rapid breathing, leading to loss of breathing.
    800 ppm is the lethal concentration for 50% of humans for 5 minutes’ exposure (LC50).
    Concentrations over 1000 ppm cause immediate collapse with loss of breathing, even after inhalation of a single breath.
    SOURCE:- WIKIPEDIA

  23. This place just doesn’t smell of seaweed most people’s attitudes stinks too. I’ve never known so many rude people living in one area of the UK.

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