Stinking seaweed at Birchington and Westgate bays likely to be left for high tide to clear away

Seaweed at Grenham Bay Photo George Kup

Stinking seaweed which is also causing release of hydrogen sulphide gas from bays in Westgate and Birchington will most likely be left for the Spring Tide to wash away, councillors have been told.

A virtual briefing yesterday revealed removal of the seaweed, which has built to extremely high levels this year, is looking unlikely.

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

Thanet council leader Rick Everitt said on Monday the authority had already collected well over 500 tonnes this season, which is more than the previous three years, but would look at smaller bays to see if more could be done.

However, Birchington councillor Phil Fellows said councillors have now been told there are issues with Beresford, Epple and Grenham bays making it unadvisable to take machinery and vehicles on to the chalk reef.

In a post to residents he said: “It is a protected SSSI and anyone causing damage to the reef would be liable to substantial fines. Removing it from the prom has also been looked at and is also impractical.

“If it could be removed then there is also an issue of costs to dump the seaweed. If no farmers want it, then it has to go to landfill and 500 tonnes would cost £100,000 to dispose of.

“The council has sought expert health advice and it appears the gasses given off would be low level and should not cause any health issues in open air.

“Kent Fire and Rescue Service is going monitor the levels over the next few days to see what they are. Very high tides are predicted shortly and hopefully this can disperse the seaweed.”


  1. This happens every year. Historically farmers have used the seaweed, and have ‘damaged’ the chalk reef for centuries if you see the cart marks in the chalk reef on Stone Bay. Seaweed is better for the land and the environment that fertilisers and farmers should not need paying , but instead pay a small charge for it. If they won’t , then it should go into the heat from waste plant. Its a pity , because rather than burning it, properly managed, valuable oils and alcohol can be extracted from seaweed. I believe only the Western Isles has greater amounts than Thanet.

  2. Realistic Girl – have you been to the area and smelt it this year? Perhaps your response would then be different. I have lived here over 60 years and the smell of seaweed has never bothered me, but at the moment it is horrendous.

  3. Why do they think there is 500 tonnes there which will cost £100,000 to dispose off, or was that just an example of the costs to tax payers?
    The simplest and most effective is to allow the tides to take it away like usual. Another answer is to eat it, it is great for good health.
    When seaweed washed up on Thanet’s beaches in the past the council would get the diggers down to push it back at low water mark so the incoming tide would take it away. Eventually it all goes away.
    I cannot see how some stinking gas is turning paintwork black, this seems a new phenomenon.

  4. Have lived in Westgate for 50+ years and have had the aroma every year.

    If you would like to help, take a Wheel Barrow to the beach collect take home wash, put in a plastic container fill the container with water. Leave for a while (month or so) Makes fantastic fertiliser for plants, vegetables etc.

  5. I thought I saw on TV News where Madam Homer promised/stated that the stinkweed would be cleared (?)
    Maybe I was dreaming…..
    or is she learning the BJU-Turn all by herself?

  6. There is something else for TDC to consider, if Thanet ever has a heavy rain fall again. The clearing of drains. A great Many of them are full of rubbish . I even noticed one with weeds growing out of it.

    • All the drains on Dane Hill Margate are blocked solid to the grate, have been left for years without any maintenance. When it rains heavily all the water runs down and floods the junction with King Street.
      Drains are blocked all over the place causing the flooding we see regularly when it rains, even Northdown Rd floods because gullies have not been cleared ever since the built out sections were incorporated.

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