Bathing water: Legacy of the Sons’ efforts

Re the recent completion of Yorkshire Water’s £50 million scheme at Scarborough intended to achieve compliance with the requirements of the revised EU Bathing Water Directive of 2015:

The truth is that this major capital investment has been all of 30 years in the making, its provenance laying in the tireless campaigning of The Sons Of Neptune for safe bathing waters.

The directive’s objective is to protect both public health and the environment from pollution in our bathing waters, precisely the exact same aims initially advocated by the Neptune group as far back as 1983.

Predating Surfers Against Sewage by several years, Scarborough’s Neptune group were the UK’s pioneering marine conservation organisation in campaigning against the odious institutionalised practice of dumping of raw, untreated sewage into inshore waters.

A measure of the advancement of any society is easily determined by its approach to the disposal of its sewage waste. Even Roman civil engineers 2,000 years ago, had both the design skills and technical capabilities to build efficient public sanitation systems.

It is essentially the very cornerstone of any developed civilisation.

Any seaside resort’s national reputation and future economic viability hinges on the cleanliness of its bathing waters.

Yet up to the recent past, both of these obvious vital factors were not seen as even relevant or in any way important to the future of Scarborough.

Official policy encompassed promoting the town as a place for families to visit, then incredulously, presenting those families who did visit with the prospect of sewage-contaminated beaches.

For decades this irrationality prevailed.

In condoning the polluting of the town’s twin bays, this amounted to the wholesale abandonment of civic pride in the most appallingly irresponsible and contemptuous disregard for public health, the marine environment and Scarborough’s standing as Britain’s first resort.

Defending the indefensible became a political mission by the then local authority and regional water company in a futile attempt to justify their reckless and untenable position.

Much like King Canute, the council’s political power had given them possession of the naive illusion that they understood and controlled the sea.

How could anyone with even the most basic intellectual insight, have possibly concluded that the unregulated polluting of the bays with raw, untreated sewage was going to benefit Scarborough?

Had the then council’s policy prevailed, this would have inevitably led to the decline of Scarborough as both a town and a resort.

Combating this endemic apathy towards sewage pollution that paralysed the attitude of both national and local government and the newly-privatised water industry, The Sons Of Neptune were the leading authoritative voice of principled reason.

Being the first in bringing the issue of coastal pollution into the national and international political arena, the Neptune group dared to challenge the pervasive myopic attitude that surrounded the whole question of the responsible management of coastal sewage waste.

The group’s commissioning of a defining comprehensive scientific report from Professor Bruce Denness in 1987 that irrefutably proved the discharge of raw sewage via long sea outfalls was pathogenically dangerous to both human and marine life, defied reproach.

It was this Scarborough environmental group that pioneered the whole ecological advancement towards the establishment of stringent anti-pollution regulations, the results of which will be seen in the first new classifications of European bathing waters next year.

The Sons Of Neptune should be accredited fully for not only their visionary role in instigating this enormously important prime development for Scarborough, but in also attaining the profound and fundamental changes to EU laws that propelled and continues to propel, this enlightened approach to marine sewage disposal across the European Union.

An approach borne of simple common sense, The Sons’ campaign has established one that rightfully befits any leading 21st century Western European society.

Patrick Argent

Fulford Road

Scarborough