Failure of the £500M Sea Change clean up scheme to bring Blackpool's bathing waters up to European Union standards left NWW engineers baffled. Initial thoughts centred on the possibility that uncharted outfalls were still discharging raw sewage somewhere. But helicopter rides along the beach, infrared camera studies and six months of intense searching all drew a blank.
It is still thought that the long Ribble estuary could be harbouring pollution from industry or agricultural runoff. But the main assumption is that the coast's hydrological and tidal regime is much more complicated than earlier modelling catered for and further, more detailed studies are planned.
Over the next 15 months a £1M research package will include attempts to create DNA fingerprints of the offending faecal coliforms to establish if they originate from birds, animals or humans.