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Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Westbrook beaches no-swim zones after Southern Water wastewater release


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A council's advice not to enter the sea has now stretched to 14 beaches after an "unscreened waste water release".

There have been a number of leaks by Southern Water across the east Kent coast over the past few days as heavy rain battered the county.

Margate Main Sands is one of the beaches affected by a "unscreened wastewater release" by Southern Water. Stock image
Margate Main Sands is one of the beaches affected by a "unscreened wastewater release" by Southern Water. Stock image

Previous advice issued by Thanet District Council covered Botany Bay, Kingsgate Bay, Joss Bay, Stone Bay and Viking Bay.

But now signs advising the public not to enter the water have been put in place at 14 beaches from Westbrook Bay around the coast to the Western Undercliff in Ramsgate.

Any beaches west of Westbrook Bay are the only ones unaffected, which includes St Mildred's Bay, West Bay and Minnis Bay.

The advice not to enter the sea covers the following 14 beaches:

  • Ramsgate Western Undercliff
  • Ramsgate Main Sands
  • Ramsgate East Cliff
  • Dumpton Gap
  • Louisa Bay
  • Viking Bay
  • Stone Bay
  • Joss Bay
  • Kingsgate Bay
  • Botany Bay
  • Palm Bay
  • Walpole Bay
  • Margate Main Sands
  • Westbrook Bay
People have been told not to enter the sea at Viking Bay, Broadstairs, by Thanet District Council after an "unscreened wastewater release" by Southern Water. Stock image
People have been told not to enter the sea at Viking Bay, Broadstairs, by Thanet District Council after an "unscreened wastewater release" by Southern Water. Stock image

The council's foreshore team estimates the advice covers 12 to 15 miles of coastline, including all of the inlets and bays.

People have been urged not to enter the sea or the area of beach below the high water mark.

Inspections are being undertaken by Southern Water in the affected areas to assess the impact and to ensure the beaches are cleared following the high tide.

The council has said it will "continue to monitor the situation closely" alongside Southern Water and the Environment Agency.

Thanet District Council leader Cllr Ash Ashbee said: "Incidents of pollution on our beaches are not only unacceptable but should simply not happen.

"As soon as I was alerted to this latest incident I spoke with Southern Water’s chief executive to express my extreme dissatisfaction and find myself yet again asking for an explanation.

Protest against Southern Water sewage leaks in Thanet earlier this year. Picture: Frank Leppard photography
Protest against Southern Water sewage leaks in Thanet earlier this year. Picture: Frank Leppard photography

"I obviously feel the frustration of local residents and businesses and will continue to push for a longer term and more robust response around the promised improvement and investment in Thanet’s waste water system.

"Our coastline and beautiful beaches, arguably our most important natural assets, should not have to sustain continued environmental damage.

"Rest assured this is a fight I will continue to take to the highest possible level."

There have been a number of waste water releases across Kent over the past few days, including in Whitstable, Herne Bay, Thanet and Folkestone.

Southern Water said in a statement yesterday: "Following a fault with pumps at our Broadstairs Wastewater Pumping Station yesterday, the resulting wastewater release at Joss Bay was quickly stopped.

Southern Water have said a "full investigation" will take place after "unscreened waste water release" was released leading to beaches in Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Westbrook becoming no-swim zones
Southern Water have said a "full investigation" will take place after "unscreened waste water release" was released leading to beaches in Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Westbrook becoming no-swim zones

"Our focus this afternoon has been on ensuring the fault doesn’t reoccur and inspection of local beaches to identify, prevent and minimise any impact on the environment.

"Nine beaches have been fully inspected and currently no sign of debris has been found.

"We also wish to reassure customers that we’ve already committed to further ongoing inspections at all these beaches for at least five days, and longer if needed, with immediate clean-ups undertaken if required.

It continued: "While we are inspecting a total of nine beaches we believe the risk of impact to water quality at five of them is unlikely.

"We are continuing to work with the EA and Thanet District Council to minimise any impact on the environment and provide accurate up to date information to customers. A full investigation will also be undertaken to understand the cause of the fault.

"Southern Water is passionately committed to the environment and part of this is being fully transparent about how we operate.

"We’re leading the way within the water industry with pollution reporting, and the Beachbouy Bathing Water Portal is part of this. We’re also very heavily invested in cutting pollution incidents, reducing them by 75% by 2025. In Thanet, this includes a first-of-its-kind surface water drainage survey for the area.

"Across the Southern Water region, we’re investing £200 million a year for wastewater assets and environmental protection."

The incident comes after Southern Water was slapped with a record £90 million fine in July after unleashing up to 21 billion litres of sewage into protected water between 2010 and 2015.

Last month it was reported the firm would pay £100,000 in compensation to Thanet District Council, after raw sewage leaked into the sea following a lightning strike on a pumping station.

People were warned to stay out of the water after the incident in June, when the water company's building at Foreness Point was hit in a storm.

It caused waste water to pump into the sea between Margate main sands and Joss Bay in Broadstairs.

The leaks sparked anger, prompting protesters to march to the pumping station, while council bosses slammed the situation as an "environmental and financial disaster".

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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