Birchington seaweed stench prompts health fears

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Beresford Gap, BirchingtonImage source, Valerie Page
Image caption,
Seaweed has been building up on a number of bays in the area

People in a seaside village have spoken of their fears an "unbearable stench" from a build-up of seaweed is damaging their health.

The odour at Birchington in Kent is said to be "worse than ever this year" with a smell of "rotten eggs".

Resident Russ Pullen said: "People are suffering from coughs and dry throats. We thought we had coronavirus."

Thanet council's leader said it was looking into the potential health impact of the decomposing seaweed.

Linda Stranger, who lives at Grenham Bay, said that "when the tide goes out, that's when the smell comes", and it's "so unbearable" she has to keep all her windows closed.

She said she believed hydrogen sulphide - a poisonous, corrosive gas with an eggy smell, given off when organic matter breaks down - may be the cause.

Unusually high levels

Thanet District Council said it had received 72 calls about the seaweed.

Leader Rick Everitt said the authority was taking complaints seriously and it was "in communication with Public Health England about potentially monitoring the levels of hydrogen sulphide and investigating any potential impact".

He added: "Seaweed is a natural occurrence on our coastline and the chalk reef where it grows is protected by law, meaning we are not able to remove as much as some people might like.

"This year has seen unusually high levels of seaweed, exacerbated by the calm weather and high temperatures.

"We have already collected well over 500 tonnes this season, which is more than the previous three years."

If people have concerns about hydrogen sulphide in their property they have been urged to contact Kent Fire and Rescue service, which has specialist equipment to test for gases.

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