The Environment Agency (DEFRA) has issued a pollution risk warning for Viking Bay beach today (August 1) and is advising against going into the sea.
The warning follows water testing for Escherichia coli and Intestinal Enterococci.
This is the third time since the beginning of July that the beach has been red flagged, resulting in a loss of beach-goers and an impact on the businesses and concessions that rely on them.
Andy Webb, who has run Kent Surf School with wife Gemma since 2005, says the hit on businesses is huge but there is nowhere to turn for compensation over lost income.
Added to that is the affect on reputation when businesses have to cancel and turn customers away.
Today, Andy has had to cancel a morning session of 12 customers and another 12 person session this afternoon.
The dad-of-two said: “The red flag is going up due to water quality (issues).This is the third time and it is affecting businesses hugely. Numbers of people on the beach are down, people aren’t visiting.
“Defra shuts the beach but no-one is compensating businesses. They tell you to write letters to the council but that doesn’t put money in my bank account.
“Having to cancel people at the last minute is embarrassing and the loss in footfall is huge.
“With 40mph winds and rain predicted for tomorrow that will probably cancel out the next couple of days too, the water gala has already had to (postpone).
“We are a seasonal business, April to September, and we have to take advantage of people coming here during that time.
“The red flag means I can’t take people out on the water as a surf school and health and safety business. And it is not just cancelling lessons, people aren’t coming to the beach or hiring equipment and then there is the effect on reputation which is a major thing.
“I have had to cancel just over £1000 worth of lessons today and that’s not including hire and my instructors that have lost earnings.
“Who will compensate me and other businesses?
“We don’t want to shout about it because we want to encourage tourism here but we can’t keep letting this happen without some sort of recourse, we have all got to make a living but there is nothing to help small businesses with the huge impact of this.”
Sadly, weather conditions mean the Broadstairs Water Gala, scheduled for tomorrow, has also had to postpone until later in the month, meaning a further loss of custom to the beach.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “Throughout the bathing season, we make daily pollution risk forecasts for a number of bathing waters, where water quality may be temporarily reduced based on factors, such as heavy rainfall, wind or the tide. When a temporary reduction in water quality is forecast, we issue a pollution risk warning and advice against bathing.
“This enables bathers to avoid times or locations where the risk of pollution is higher than normal, and health risks from bathing may be higher than the annual classification suggests.
“Members of the public should report environmental concerns to us on our free 24-hour incident hotline, 0800 80 70 60.”
Advice against bathing is advisory and public access to the beach and the bathing water remains open.
The Environment Agency says it is not aware of any specific problems related to the local sewerage system in this area and this is a routine warning based on its forecasting system.
The Environment Agency makes daily pollution risk forecasts on the Swimfo website to inform bathers about the water quality. Warnings are posted on its water quality website: Swimfo
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “In response to a pollution risk warning issued today (Tuesday 1 August) by the Environment Agency, the council has displayed signs advising against bathing at Viking Bay in Broadstairs.
“These signs are displayed to advise the public that water quality is likely to be reduced so they can make an informed decision whether to swim.
“Water quality testing is carried out by the Environment Agency between May and September each year. The results are publicly available on the Environment Agency’s website. The council has signed up to the Environment Agency’s Pollution Risk Forecast scheme (PRF).
“As part of this, water quality testing takes place at designated bathing water sites in England and is assessed by the Environment Agency. From May to September, weekly assessments measure current water quality and, at a number of sites, daily pollution risk forecasts are issued.”