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.”