BLACKPOOL is poised for another tourism blow on Monday (April 27) with the release of this year's Good Beach Guide.

The Citizen understands the national survey, published by the Marine Conservation Society and Readers' Digest, will slam continuing poor sea water quality along the Fylde Coast.

Any hopes Blackpool could soon be flying the coveted Blue Flag of European-standard beach cleanliness have been scuppered.

Scientists were baffled that North West Water's £200m new sewage treatment facilities at Fleetwood and Clifton Marsh - completed two years ago - failed to solve the pollution problem.

But now the Environment Agency, the Government watchdog on standards, has tracked the culprits - sewage-flows from inland towns down the rivers Ribble and Wyre and dilute sewage from storm overflows along the coast.

As a result, a further £100m is being pumped into improvements by North West Water.

Short-term measures for this summer include chemical disinfection of storm overflows not only from Blackpool but inland at Preston, Wigan and Skelmersdale and across the Ribble estuary at Southport.

By next summer storm overflows will be cut back at Blackpool and Fairhaven - and up-river sewage works will be improved.

Ultra-violet treatment should further sterilise discharges from Fleetwood by the year 2000.

Environment Agency protection manager Laurence Rankin said: "We can't be 100 per cent certain this will solve all the problems, but we are reasonably confident.

"I'd be delighted to see a Blue Flag flying at Blackpool, but water is only one aspect of the Blue Flag scheme.

"It is our intention that Fylde Coast bathing water will comply with European standards."

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who has pressed hard for cleaner waters, said the Good Beach Guide results would be no surprise.

"It confirms the Department of Environment figures," he said, "but hopefully we'll soon be seeing some improvements.

"What we need to do is make sure the regulator, Ofwat, takes a much tougher line on passing the costs onto the consumer in the light of the water companies' profits."

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.