IT SMELLS like raw sewage – and it could be coming to a beach near you.
A frothy brown scum seen off the Hampshire coast has been identified as Phaeocystis, a marine algae guaranteed to cause a stink wherever it forms.
Civic chiefs initially urged people using the beaches to “exercise caution” amid fears a major pollution incident could have occurred.
But checks carried out by the Environment Agency and local authorities have established that the foul-smelling substance is non-toxic.
Councils in Hampshire and Dorset launched an investigation after receiving reports from beachgoers worried about what appeared to be contamination of the sea.
One woman who visited Milford on Sea on Monday is reported to have said: “The sea is very brown and slimy, with brown gloopy particles. The stench of raw sewage is almost overpowering.”
The algae “bloom” is thought to be the biggest seen in the area for several years.
An Environment Agency spokesman said: “Phaeocystis is a naturally occurring algae that creates a brown frothy scum which onshore winds can whip up into a brown foam. Once onshore it breaks down into a brown slime which can smell similar to sewage.
“Due to the current weather conditions these blooms are expected to persist at several sites along the coast for a while longer.”
A New Forest District Council spokesman added: “On Saturday we received a report from coastguards about a substance in the water off Milford on Sea.
“Two members of the public also contacted us.
“We believe it’s likely to be connected to the algae seen off Bournemouth. We are carrying out an inspection of the area to see if there’s any further sign of the substance and if any further action is needed.”
The council’s cabinet member for environment, Sophie Beeton, is also a district councillor for Milford.
She said the authority had not received any reports of algae coming ashore, adding that the substance already appeared to be dispersing.
“I was on the Solent at the weekend and didn’t see any,” she said.