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Margate protest demands end to Southern Water waste discharges


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Hundreds of protestors gathered to demand an end to wastewater releases along the county’s coastline.

Demonstrators from Save our NHS in Kent (Sonik) marched through Margate today calling for Southern Water to stop its discharges.

Campaigners in Margate against releases by Southern Water

It comes after a power outage at the under-fire firm’s pumping station in Broadstairs saw “unscreened wastewater” flow into the sea on October 5.

Advice not to swim off 14 beaches between Margate and Ramsgate remained in place for as many as 10 days – with Joss Bay being the last to reopen.

Sonik is calling for the water company to be brought back under public ownership and to be made directly accountable for their impact on health and the environmental.

Norman Thomas, a member of the group, said hundreds of people were at the protest.

"We had speakers who spoke about the outrage the sewage discharges have meant to people and then they went on a spontaneous march to demonstrate their disgust at Southern Water," he said.

Author Julie Wassmer, known for her Whitstable Pearl books, spoke at the protest in Margate against releases by Southern Water. Picture: Sonik
Author Julie Wassmer, known for her Whitstable Pearl books, spoke at the protest in Margate against releases by Southern Water. Picture: Sonik

"There were calls for Southern Water and for water companies in general to be taken back into public ownership and stopped from throwing raw sewage into our sea."

He said so many turned up because of the "depth of anger" sparked by the discharges.

Campaigners say this is only the first in a series of protest actions they plan to take against Southern Water.

Today's protest follows similar action in Tankerton earlier this month by campaign group SOS Whitstable.

People living in the area have frequently been warned against entering the water following regular polluting of the sea.

Protestors in Margate march against releases by Southern Water. Picture: Sonik
Protestors in Margate march against releases by Southern Water. Picture: Sonik

The Environment Agency confirmed it has launched an investigation into Southern Water over a spillage on Thanet shores over the summer.

A lightning strike in June caused a power failure at the company’s Foreness pumping station, causing raw sewage to be dumped into the sea.

It resulted in the closure of 11 beaches across the Thanet coast, with the district council receiving £100,000 from Southern Water in compensation.

An Environment Agency spokesman told KentOnline: "Once we have completed our investigations, we will decide on what further action is appropriate.

"As this is an ongoing investigation we can't comment any further at this time. We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously.

About 1,000 people are believed to have attended a march in Tankerton earlier this month, organised by campaign group Save Our Seas (SOS) Whitstable . Picture: Andrew Hastings
About 1,000 people are believed to have attended a march in Tankerton earlier this month, organised by campaign group Save Our Seas (SOS) Whitstable . Picture: Andrew Hastings

"Water companies have a legal duty, to avoid pollution and must act quickly to reduce any damage that happens as a result of their activities."

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.

District council leader Cllr Ash Ashbee also revealed that the local authority was not notified of this month’s incident, as she expressed her frustration with there being yet more spillages.

She said: “My understanding is an electrical failure occurred at 8.45am and a back-up generator was not working.

"Due to the need for a qualified electrician to isolate the problem the site could not come back online until 10.30am.

"During that period unscreened waste water was discharged into the sea. The council was not notified of this discharge by Southern Water, and (it was) in fact identified by a Thanet officer.

"As I’ve said previously, this is totally unacceptable and simply should not have happened.

"Any organisation that relies on a power supply to operate any vital part of their infrastructure should have back-ups that are fully tested and ready for operation."

Cllr Ashbee has asked for MPs to speak on the issue in Parliament and says the council has sent letters to the Environment Agency on the issue.

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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