Worthing 'hazardous material incident': Coastguard investigating ships for chemical leaks

Officers comb the beach
Officers comb the beach

The Coastguard is investigating weather patterns and ship movements to try to find the cause of an incident that forced the evacuation of Worthing seafront at the weekend.

On Sunday (August 11), Worthing Pier and some parts of the seafront were shut down after a 'hazardous material' left some people with sore eyes and vomiting.

A two-mile cordon was set up from Grand Avenue to Windsor Road as the emergency services worked with the Worthing beach office to determine the cause of the irritation and yesterday (August 13) Sussex Police announced it had ended its investigation.
HM Coastguard was part of the initial response and has continued the investigation into a possible cause.

A spokesman said: "The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s Counter Pollution and Salvage Branch has been informed and is monitoring the situation along with the local authority and Environment Agency.

"At this time we do not know the source and the MCA is investigating if the source could have been from a vessel.

"The MCA is also looking at weather patterns and vessel movements to establish if there were any vessels in the area that were capable of carrying a gas or could have cargo tanks (carrying solid or liquid cargo) which could have been venting at the time."

Worthing Borough Council confirmed it was working with several agencies to investigate the incident and thanked everyone for their patience and understanding while the police cordon was in place. Locals had been warned to close their windows and doors, according to Sussex Police.

The council spokesman said the seafront remained a safe, welcoming place for people to visit and enjoy.

Officers from the Environment Agency and Southern Water have been working with the council and the Coastguard as part of the investigation and a spokesman for Southern Water said a connection to its work or systems had been ruled out.

The spokesman said: “We were contacted on Sunday afternoon by our local Environment Agency representative who alerted us to reports of members of the public affected by irritated eyes and seeking reassurance all our assets were behaving normally.

"This was part of the normal process of elimination. We were able to reassure him this was the case but sent one of our team to liaise with the local authorities. We are always happy to work with our partners at Worthing Borough Council and other local agencies if our technical expertise can be of assistance although in this case the incident was not connected to our work or systems.”

Anyone with any concerns or possible information is asked to contact Adur and Worthing Council’s public health & regulation team on 01903 221064 or visit our website.

See pictures from the scene here: Pictures show Worthing seafront locked down and deserted after ‘hazardous material’ discovered