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Southern Water to pay £100,000 compensation after sewage leaks in Thanet caused by lightning strike

Southern Water is to 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 causing waste water to pump into the sea between Margate main sands and Joss Bay in Broadstairs.

Joss Bay, Broadstairs. Picture: Chris Davey
Joss Bay, Broadstairs. Picture: Chris Davey

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

But yesterday the Leader of Thanet District Council Ash Ashbee announced the Southern Water has agreed to pay compensation, in a statement on the council's website.

She said: “Following the lightning strike at Southern Water’s wastewater pumping station at Foreness Point on Wednesday 16 June 2021, I wrote to and met with the chief executive and senior directors to understand exactly what happened and what mitigation measures can be put in place to ensure the district is not exposed to that risk again.

“I understand the strength of feeling on this matter and am aware that many residents and businesses in Thanet are looking for the company to be held to account.

"This evening, the chief executive of Southern Water, Ian McAulay and the director of environment & corporate affairs Dr Toby Willison provided elected members with a further update following the incident and answered their questions.

"It has also agreed to commission a full drainage survey of Margate and the surrounding areas..."

“In addition to funds already offered to local businesses in compensation for loss of business, Southern Water has made a direct payment of £100,000 to Thanet District Council to meet costs incurred as a result of the incident and, as per my request, to benefit the residents of Thanet.

"It has also agreed to commission a full drainage survey of Margate and the surrounding areas in order to improve the long term resilience of Foreness Point.

"This survey will establish and record all of the water pathways that contribute surface water and rain water to the combined drainage system, as well assess the amount of water which is added to the system during storm periods.

"The aim is to reduce runoff reaching the treatment works and therefore substantially reduce the risk of emergency spills. Southern Water estimates this survey will cost in the region of £400,000.

“I will continue to seek assurances that Southern Water’s investment plan in Thanet is sufficient to ensure resilience in the area.

Foreness Point pumping station. Picture: Matt Bristow
Foreness Point pumping station. Picture: Matt Bristow

"I want the priorities of Thanet residents and businesses to be both heard and understood and in turn know that the company has a plan that addresses their concerns.

"Furthermore, by working closely with our MPs and using our collective powers and influence, I will continue to scrutinise Southern Water to ensure they deliver on their commitments.”

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