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Southern Water official to be grilled by public about impact of raw sewage being dumped in Swalecliffe


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Residents and campaigners will have a chance to grill Southern Water at a public meeting tonight after the firm admitted illegally dumping colossal amounts of raw sewage into the sea.

The company was slapped with a record £90 million fine after it unleashed up to 21 billion litres into protected waters between 2010 and 2015.

Southern Water's treatment works in Swalecliffe
Southern Water's treatment works in Swalecliffe

Canterbury and Whitstable MP Rosie Duffield is holding a meeting about the impact sewage spills from Southern Water's Swalecliffe Treatment Works have had on the area.

An executive director from the company will be speaking at the meeting on the firm's position.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, Thomas Hawkins from Surfers Against Sewage, a Visit Kent representative, and councillors Neil Baker (Con) and Chris Cornell (Lab) are all set to speak.

The floor will then be opened to residents, who will have the opportunity to discuss issues around the treatment works and what can be done to improve the environment and area for residents.

Southern Water was sentenced this month after admitting 6,971 illegal discharges from treatment works in Kent, West Sussex and Hampshire between 2010 and 2015.

A diesel spill in 2019 at the Southern Water treatment works in Swalecliffe. Picture: Environment Agency
A diesel spill in 2019 at the Southern Water treatment works in Swalecliffe. Picture: Environment Agency

The firm’s lawyers argued the sewage was discharged following “negligence” rather than a “deliberate” act to reap “considerable financial advantage”.

But employees would even go to “unprecedented” efforts to hinder the Environment Agency, as it sought to investigate the source of high levels of faecal matter, E coli and Norovirus.

Some 9,000 to 10,000 contaminated oysters are believed to have entered the food chain, dogs became violently ill after swimming, ships were damaged, and one home was almost flooded during a spill.

Southern Water was also recently branded the joint-worst water company in the country for its environmental performance.

A report published this month by the Environment Agency said the performance of the firm has given them "serious cause for concern".

Southern Water were fined a record £90 million for dumping raw sewage
Southern Water were fined a record £90 million for dumping raw sewage

The research looked at the performances of the nine water and sewerage companies across England, which is measured using the Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) using a star system.

Companies are analysed based on reducing pollution incidents and increasing reporting of them, complying with discharge permits, completing environmental improvement schemes and providing secure supplies of water.

Southern Water was at the bottom of the table of 2020's results alongside South West Water - each being slapped with two stars.

The public meeting, which will be held in Swalecliffe, is sold out.

Admission will be only be given to those who have registered and have their ticket on paper or on their phone.

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