Home   Whitstable   News   Article

Southern Water releases across Kent coastline ignite calls for urgent action


More news, no ads

LEARN MORE

The coastline has been blighted once again by a wave of waste water releases after the district was battered by heavy rain.

Campaigners have repeated their demands for Southern Water to take urgent action to tackle the pollution amid fresh fears sea swimmers are falling ill.

SOS Whitstable protest at Tankerton beach last month against Southern Water waste water and sewage releases. Picture: Tom Banbury @tombanbury
SOS Whitstable protest at Tankerton beach last month against Southern Water waste water and sewage releases. Picture: Tom Banbury @tombanbury

There have been more than 20 separate releases since Friday across the Canterbury district.

One from the Swalecliffe Wastewater Treatment Works lasted for more than 16 hours.

SOS Whitstable, which was launched two months ago to campaign against the pollution, has branded the number of releases as “endless”.

The group was set up by eleven members of local sea swimming group Bubbletit Bluetits.

One of the founding members, Sally Burtt-Jones, says the group “is getting fed up”.

One of the founding members from SOS Whitstable, Sally Burtt-Jones, has urged Southern Water to take urgent action following a number of releases. Picture: Bryony Carter / @violetmonkey
One of the founding members from SOS Whitstable, Sally Burtt-Jones, has urged Southern Water to take urgent action following a number of releases. Picture: Bryony Carter / @violetmonkey

“It was World Bluetit Day on October 1 and we had planned to have a huge get together in Whitstable for sunset and to swim together,” she said.

“A few people still met on the beach but we pretty much had to abandon our celebrations because of the releases.”

There have been at least five reports to SOS Whitstable of people falling sick after swimming in the sea.

Another founding member, Elane Heffernan, says she is “afraid” to go in the water.

“I have a disability and health condition, which makes swimming quite difficult, but I have been sick twice after swimming,” she said.

Elane Heffernan, one of the founding members of SOS Whitstable, fell ill twice after swimming in the sea following releases by Southern Water. Picture: Elane Heffernan
Elane Heffernan, one of the founding members of SOS Whitstable, fell ill twice after swimming in the sea following releases by Southern Water. Picture: Elane Heffernan

“One time at the beginning of August I didn’t realise there had been a release and for three days I had horrid symptoms. The second time was a couple of days after a release in September.

“It is really hard because I moved here to have a healthy lifestyle and swim in the sea but now cold showers are the only way I can get coldness circulating to help my health.”

It 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.

A public meeting was called in August at St John’s Centre, Swalecliffe, where Southern Water was grilled about releases from its treatment works.

Two directors said about £16 million would be spent to improve the site.

Some of the SOS Whitstable founding members who launched the group after Southern Water releases across Kent coast. Picture credit: Bryony Carter / @violetmonkey
Some of the SOS Whitstable founding members who launched the group after Southern Water releases across Kent coast. Picture credit: Bryony Carter / @violetmonkey

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “Across the country sewer systems were built connected to surface water drains in order to protect homes from flooding.

“In heavy or intense rain the Environment Agency permits waste water companies to release this rainfall in order to protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding and ensure customers can use their toilets, showers and washing machines as normal.”

They said Southern Water’s Beachbuoy service alerts water users when there are releases and some 98% of its outfalls are now covered with sensors and telemetry.

“Public awareness of storm releases is growing and there are increasing calls for the highly regulated practice to end,” they added.

“We support these calls and have adopted a pioneering approach.

Southern Water's treatment works in Swalecliffe near Whitstable, which has been a source of misery for many residents after a number of releases
Southern Water's treatment works in Swalecliffe near Whitstable, which has been a source of misery for many residents after a number of releases

“While simply separating all sewers from surface drains would be a hugely expensive and disruptive process, we believe that a partnership approach is the best way forward.

“Regulation on sustainable drainage must be changed so rainwater separation is built into all new construction. Investment in natural capital such as enhanced and expanded wetlands will be key.”

SOS Whitstable will be holding a protest on Saturday, meeting at the lifeguard hut in Tankerton at 1pm.

Earlier this week, a council issued advice not to enter the sea at 14 beaches after an "unscreened waste water release" by Southern Water.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More