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Southern Water may have known about spill days before reporting

Botany Bay, Thanet
Botany Bay, Thanet

Botany Bay was one of those beaches affected

by Jamie Stephens

An MP is claiming a sewage spill that shut Thanet's beaches for more than a week might have been known about for days before it was reported.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale was speaking the day after Blue Flags were reinstated and Thanet's beaches reopened following a sewage spillage.

Southern Water's sewage pumping station at Foreness Point was highlighted as the source of the spillage.

He said the failure was detected on Wednesday, May 30 – but not reported to the council until Friday, June 1.

Thanet District Council then closed the beaches as a precaution.

Southern Water is looking into the sequence of events with the Environment Agency and says it will improve response times if possible.

But Kelvin Godfrey, membership secretary of Foreness Waterski and Boat Club, is questioning the timescale of the reaction.

He said: “Southern Water kept it quiet for three days – and that is worrying.

"Obviously the council weren’t kept in the loop and the warning signs weren’t put out til late, so you’ve got people in the water with all kinds of pollutants.

“I’m really annoyed. The Blue Flags for excellent sea bathing quality come out each month – what’s the status going to be in July? Losing Blue Flag status will be disastrous for Thanet.”

Roger Gale MP
Roger Gale MP

Sir Roger said Southern Water is conducting an internal inquiry into the time it took for council bosses to be alerted.

He said: “It appears a minor spill was detected on Wednesday and the duty operative did not believe that it was necessary to report it – but that awaits confirmation.

“The good news is that the water samples suggest much less pollution than initially feared.

"The water status has been downgraded from ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ and will, hopefully, swiftly return to Blue Flag quality.

“This is the last thing that Margate needed at the start of the summer season and it is only thanks to the awful weather that more bathing visitors were not disappointed.”

The discharge came as families planned to head to Thanet beaches during the half-term holiday and just a month after nine bays were highlighted as being among the cleanest in Britain – the highest concentration anywhere in the UK.

Paul Kent, asset strategy manager at Southern Water, said the company was making every effort to understand what had caused the problem.

He added: “We’re determined to manage the situation as quickly as possible, to try and return the bathing water to a good clean condition, and make sure life can go on as normal.”

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