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Thanet beaches have reopened to swimmers after sewage discharge at Foreness Point pumping station

By KentOnline reporter

All of Thanet’s beaches are now fully open after a spillage left sewage waste strewn on the shoreline.

Signs at the nine affected sites have been updated informing swimmers they can now go in the water and red flags have been lowered.

Thanet council was forced to advise people against swimming in the sea between Walpole Bay in Cliftonville and Dumpton Gap in Broadstairs following an emergency discharge at the Southern Water Foreness Point Sewage Pumping Station on Wednesday night. It resulted in debris such as sanitary towels, condoms and toilet paper being washed ashore.

Sewage spewed onto nine beaches. File picture: Joss Bay Surf School

Council workers have been out in force as part of a large-scale clean-up operation since the early hours of Thursday morning.

Water quality is said to have significantly improved and the majority of debris cleared.

Southern Water cleansing teams will remain out around the coast for the remainder of the Bank Holiday weekend to clear any further evidence of debris following the next high-tides.

The beaches affected were:

  • Walpole Bay
  • Palm Bay
  • Botany Bay
  • Kingsgate Bay
  • Joss Bay
  • Stone Bay
  • Viking Bay
  • Louisa Bay
  • Dumpton Gap

The water company said it was forced to carry out the emergency discharge to protect homes from flooding.

A worker assesses the damage to a beach in Thanet. Picture: Mike Pett

The council has requested an urgent meeting with Southern Water next week to understand why the discharge occurred and to seek assurances for the future.

An investigation has also been launched by the Environment Agency into the spillage.

Among the worst affected was Joss Bay Surf School, which was forced to re-think regular classes with 32 pupils from the Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs on Thursday, as the water was off-limits.

Dave Melmoth, owner of the surf school, called for immediate action after the Foreness Point pumping station in Margate was unable to cope with the levels of rain.

Mr Melmoth said: "The amount of money that is brought through this area from tourism, Southern Water needs to be making sure their facilities are working.

"There needs to be improvements."

Litter-pickers on one of Thanet's beaches. Picture: Mike Pett

It comes just two years after the Joss Bay was shut for 10 days after it was affected by sewage spills.

Southern Water gave assurances then that there would be no more problems from the Foreness Point pumping station.

Earlier this week Thanet's beaches - including Joss Bay - were awarded more Blue Flag awards for cleanliness than any other area in England.

People were warned to avoid swimming on some Thanet beaches. Picture: Mike Pett

A statement from Southern Water said : “Our Foreness Point pumping station in Margate was overwhelmed by heavy rain after almost a month’s worth fell in six hours.

"This excess rainfall was released to sea to protect homes in the area from flooding."

An Environment Agency spokesman said it was seeking assurances from Southern Water concerning the operation of the pumping station.

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