This year, Thanet District Council has applied for six blue flag awards and four seaside awards.
Water quality of a Blue Flag beach must be classified as ‘Excellent’ but, at the end of the 2016 bathing water season, water quality at Ramsgate Main Sands was classified as ‘Good’ by the Environment Agency. It is therefore not eligible for a Blue Flag beach award.
The Environment Agency now uses four years’ worth of data to assess water quality and new stringent standards introduced in 2015 means achieving these new standards is almost twice as tough as before.
Ramsgate Main Sands does however fulfil the criteria for a Keep Britain Tidy Seaside Award, which the council has applied for. This is a nationwide standard for the best beaches across the UK - a symbol of quality which ensures visitors are guaranteed to find a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed coast. An official announcement of these awards is expected at the end of May.
Councillor Lin Fairbrass, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Services at Thanet District Council said: “We should be proud of the quality of our beaches and Thanet currently holds more award winning beaches than any other district authority in the country. The water quality classification of Ramsgate Main Sands has been consistently good which means it is clean and safe for swimming. It is however not unusual for even the cleanest of beaches to experience elevated levels of bacteria, so everyone has a part to play in protecting and improving our beaches.”
Due to a change in water quality, the Environment Agency investigated various potential sources of pollution, and there was no evidence to suggest that dredging of the harbour, the Ramsgate Regatta or the seaweed accumulate could have caused this elevated sample. The quality of bathing water can be affected by many factors such as run-off from roads and / or agricultural land; storm overflows from the wastewater network; boat and marine activities; misconnections of wastewater pipes into the surface water system; animals, such as dogs or seabirds, on the beach; and litter. This can all be made worse by strong tides or heavy rainfall.
Thanet District Council, the Environment Agency and Southern Water are working in partnership to understand more about the factors which may be affecting water quality in this location. Any high sample readings recorded at Ramsgate Main Sands during the 2017 bathing water season will also be retained for additional analysis.