A couple and their dog have been struck down with sickness and diarrhoea following a dip off the coast – just hours after a sewage discharge.
The 30-year-old contracted severe gastroenteritis – along with her partner, Chris, and their dog, Sully – later the same day.
“While we were paddleboarding, my partner said ‘I really need a drink’ because of the taste the water left in his mouth. He said it tasted as if something was off,” Ms Hearn told KentOnline.
“We didn’t think anything of it – we were completely unaware of what happened the previous day. If we knew, there’d be no way we’d have gone in the sea.
“The water didn’t smell. It looked a bit murky, but it wasn’t something that would have immediately put us off going in.
“Six or seven hours later the three of us had sickness and diarrhoea.”
The trio had travelled to the Bay from Gateshead to stay with Ms Hearn’s parents for a long weekend.
But they say their trip has been mired.
They claim the rest of Ms Hearn’s family - who decided against joining them for a paddle - remained sickness-free.
“We were probably only out there for an hour and a half - myself, my partner and our dog,” Ms Hearn continued.
“I’m absolutely disgusted. After I posted on Twitter about it, I received a message from Southern Water saying they apologised ‘for any inconvenience’.
“It’s not an ‘inconvenience’ – we’re severely unwell. As tourists, we were completely unaware there had been a release – there were no signs, no warnings.
“We hope nobody else experiences what we have.”
Southern Water’s Beachbuoy page – which monitors discharges – shows there was a release lasting almost three hours off Swalecliffe on Sunday night.
The company says the incident impacted bathing sites in Herne Bay and Tankerton.
It stresses the discharge was from one of its outfalls, which “protect homes from flooding and pollution by stopping the sewers backing-up or overflowing during large storms or prolonged showers”.
The outfalls are regulated by the Environment Agency, and are used in areas where the sewers were built to carry both waste water and rainwater away.
Following the incident this week, a Southern Water spokesman said: "Two separate releases were made on Sunday evening from our Swalecliffe and Gainsborough Drive outfalls. They were heavily diluted with rainwater.
"These events followed heavy rainfall over a short period of time.
"The releases were within our Environment Agency permit, and necessary to protect homes and businesses which otherwise would have been at risk of internal flooding.
"We are working hard to reduce our use of storm overflows, and have a number of ground-breaking projects to tackle this."