Published: 12:01, 20 June 2021
| Updated: 13:21, 20 June 2021
Protesters are set to descend on a Kent town demanding an end to sewage leaks along a stretch of coastline after several beaches were hit by discharges.
Waste water was released into the sea between Margate Main Sands and Joss Bay in Broadstairs earlier this week, after Foreness Pumping Station was hit by lightning.
Southern Water has been continuing clean-up operations over the weekend, as warnings against taking a dip at 11 beaches between the two Thanet towns remain in place.
And this afternoon dozens of residents will march from the district council offices in Cecil Street, Margate, to the pumping station in Prince's Walk.
Organiser Tim Garratt, of campaign group Acorn Margate, told KentOnline: "This seems to be a yearly occurrence.
"We're very angry. People are sick of it.
"Southern Water have to clean up their act.
"They should invest in infrastructure and reimburse the community for the damage over the years."
The activists are demanding Southern Water pays compensation to businesses impacted by the consequent reduction in tourism to the Thanet coast.
They also believe the company's customers in the district "who pay for water treatment, management and appropriate disposal" should be reimbursed.
Meanwhile, they are urging Southern Water to invest in infrastructure at Foreness to ensure the events of this week are not repeated.
Following the incident on Wednesday night, South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay vented his frustration about the situation on Twitter.
"I am increasingly annoyed that whenever we have a downpour, year on year, we have a problem with Southern Water," the Tory said.
"Particularly at Foreness Point in Margate which then blights our blue flag beaches for days.
"It’s not good enough and I don’t want to see yet another PR of drivel and excuses."
Southern Water was fined £2 million in 2016 after untreated sewage polluted the sea at Margate four years earlier.
The pumping station was said to have been overwhelmed following a heavy storm, before detritus like tissue, sanitary pads, condoms and wipes were discovered along the coast.
Advice against entering the sea is in place at Minnis Bay, West Bay, St Mildred's Bay, Westbrook Bay, Margate Main Sands, Walpole Bay, Palm Bay, Foreness, Botany Bay, Kingsgate Bay and Joss Bay.
Signs have been erected at the beaches to informing beach users of the conditions.
Bosses from Thanet District Council say the warnings will be lifted only once inspections, which take place after high tide, reveal it is safe to do so.
Southern Water's head of pollution and flooding resilience, Dr Nick Mills, insists the firm is "dedicated to protecting the environment".
He also stresses that release of waste water into the sea needed to happen to protect nearby homes and businesses from flooding.
"The release that happened overnight on June 16 was caused by a combination of heavy rainfall and a lightning strike, which caused a short power failure and affected systems on site at our Margate pumping station," he added.
"Back-up generators are in place. As part of our preparations for the predicted thunderstorms and heavy rainfall we also had a team standing by in the area.
"These precautionary measures meant we were able to immediately begin work restoring the site to full operation.
"Unfortunately, we had to make this emergency release to protect local homes and businesses from internal flooding."
Dr Mills says an investigation into the incident has been launched by Southern Water.
He also notes that a compensation scheme for businesses is available to make a claim for lost funds.
"No pollution is acceptable to us or our customers and we apologise for the impact the latest incident has had on local residents, businesses and the environment," Dr Mills continued.
"We have invested £3.2 billion across our region in the last six years to improve the capacity and efficiency of the waste water network and will continue to do so, with a further £1.7 billion committed for the next four years.
"We continue to monitor the coastline and clean-up after each high tide."