ICI Watercare, a new subsidiary of the chemical giant, has won a pounds 1m contract to add sodium hypochlorite to Blackpool's main sewage outfall, which runs from the heart of the promenade near the tower half a mile out to sea.
During the peak summer season it deposits 20 million gallons of coarsely screened but raw sewage on the sea bed. Because fresh water is lighter than sea water it rises to the surface. A buoy marks the spot, warning swimmers and small craft to keep away.
Sodium hypochlorite is a simple chemical found in household bleach and used to disinfect drinking water and swimming pools. It kills bacteria and inactivates viruses by oxidising them, then breaks down into common salt, oxygen and water. One gallon will be added to every 10,000 gallons of sewage.
Blackpool Borough Council's deputy tourism chief, John Hall, said the council's marketing had dropped any references to golden sands and sea, concentrating instead on projecting the resort as a place of 'wall to wall entertainment and man made attractions'.
But now Blackpool, which remains Britain's biggest resort with more than 15 million visits a year, could present itself once more as a great beach.
Sodium hypochlorite is only a temporary solution. In the long term North West Water wants to build a pounds 150m scheme which will treat all of Blackpool and Fleetwood's sewage then pump it three miles out to sea. Once that is in place Blackpool beach should meet the standards set by the EC bathing water directive and other EC legislation - something disinfection alone cannot deliver.
North West Water had pledged to have this long sea outfall working by the end of 1995. This can happen only if construction starts soon, but Wyre Borough Council, which borders Blackpool, is still considering its planning permission for the new sewage works.