Scarborough South Bay’s poor rated water quality ‘an urgent wake-up call’

The weekend heatwave hits Scarborough . A busy South Bay beachpic Richard Ponter
The weekend heatwave hits Scarborough . A busy South Bay beachpic Richard Ponter

The fact that South Bay bathing water quality was in the worst 1.3% of bathing water sites in Europe in 2018 was bad enough - but to have a poor quality rating three years in a row is a wake up call for urgent action if ever there was one.

An actual decline in quality was noted in the North Bay where for 2018 the Blue Flag was lost with its rating reduced from excellent to good.

If that news is a great disappointment to many it is even greater to this organisation which campaigned relentlessly in the 1980s and 1990s against our council, the water companies and the UK government to stop untreated sewage being discharged into the sea.

This was only eventually achieved by presenting our scientific research, regarding tidal drift and long-term survival of bacteria in the sea, to the EU, thereby helping to attain a new EU Wastewater Directive compelling the UK to provide full treatment.

This ultimately led to the Scalby Mills Wastewater Treatment Plant coming into operation in 2001. As an extra precaution to safeguard the bathing waters Yorkshire Water added UV radiation.

You may well ask what has happened since.

We can assure you that this group has worked in cooperation with Yorkshire Water to identify sources of pollution.

Initially this focused on the impact of occasional spills of untreated sewage from the old short outfalls which had to be retained for overflows in storm conditions.

However, these were found to be operating more frequently than was anticipated at the planning stage of the treatment plant caused by changes in weather pattern resulting in very heavy sporadic downpours for short periods rather than what many will recall - a day of drizzle.

Having identified this, and precise identification and its impact have to be understood before major civil engineering works can be justified, a £50m scheme was then undertaken by Yorkshire Water to provide additional storage tanks at Marine Drive and at the treatment plant and again with all outflows protected by UV radiation.

Despite all this, pollution has persisted but the very good news is that, by such process of elimination, not only has a great deal been achieved but other sources of pollution have been identified during several further years of intensive study.

The challenge now, as before, is to find a solution to prevent such pollution and achieve the excellence rating for the town’s bathing waters in both bays without any adverse impact on marine life.

Sir David Attenborough has warned us of the fragility of the health of our deep oceans.

How much stronger comes that warning when one considers that the North Sea might be compared to a shallow lake.

What we see on our doorstep is no deeper from the Tyne to the Humber for most parts than the height of our castle headland.

It is also a vital food resource.

The fishing industry will, therefore, continue to be as vigilant as this organisation to protect the health of our seas.

Their livelihood depends on it, as does ours.

Freddie Drabble

Sons of Neptune Leader

Scalby Road, Scarborough