Published: 15:00, 09 October 2021
| Updated: 15:26, 09 October 2021
Shocking images appear to show excrement floating in the sea - following concerns over sewage discharges by Southern Water.
The "disgusting" sight was captured at Whitstable yesterday by a concerned resident, in the wake of widespread safety and environmental concerns regarding sewage pumped into the sea.
In a video posted to social media, Sarah Hammond Thornby says the blobs of waste were initially so large she thought they were "big chunks of polystyrene".
She retrieved her camera to film the sight, by which time the waste had broken up.
She described watching a "channel of sewage" moving across the sea "like a river".
"Some of it's now coming in - some of it's broken up," she says in a video. "So much has gone out towards Seasalter.
"We thought it was big chunks of polystyrene that was floating. It was huge."
The Whitstable coastline has been blighted by a wave of waste water releases once again this week, after the district was battered by heavy rain.
One of the releases from the Swalecliffe Wastewater Treatment Works lasted for more than 16 hours.
However, Southern Water's website currently says "there is no risk to water quality from Southern Water stormwater releases" at Tankerton or Whitstable's West Beach.
The only live incident listed nearby on the website is a fault that occurred at the Broadstairs pumping station on Tuesday morning.
Regarding that issue, Southern Water says online: "We are continuing to comb nearby beaches for any evidence of impact and clean up if necessary.
"We will continue to do this until we, the Environment Agency and Thanet District Council are satisfied no risk of environmental damage remains.
"A full investigation is taking place to understand the cause of the fault."
The shocking photos come 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.
Campaigners have since repeated their demands for Southern Water to take urgent action to tackle the pollution, amid fears sea swimmers are falling ill.
Campaign group Save Our Sea Whitstable, which was launched two months ago to campaign against the pollution, says it has received at least five reports of people falling sick after swimming in the sea.
One founding member, Elane Heffernan, says she is “afraid” to go in the water after falling ill.
“I have a disability and health condition, which makes swimming quite difficult, but I have been sick twice after swimming,” she said.
“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."
SOS Whistable has shared the footage of the sewage in the sea on its Instagram page, writing: "This is what we are fighting against."
At 1pm today, the group held a protest march in Whitstable attended by hundreds of people, calling for Southern Water to stop discharging sewage into the sea.
Southern Water has been approached for a comment.