Alert issued over beach use between Margate and Joss Bay after waste water release

Warning signs following waste water discharge Photo John Horton

Beach-goers are being advised not to enter the sea or beach area below the high water mark between Margate and Joss Bay following a waste water release at a Southern Water pumping station.

An alert issued by Thanet council this morning says: “Following a Southern Water incident at Margate Pumping Station, beach users are advised not to enter the sea or the area of beach below the high water mark between Margate Main Sands and Joss Bay. Signs to advise people of this are being put out on the beaches asap.”

Empty Margate sands Photo John Horton

A Southern Water spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry to report that due to a lightning strike at Margate Wastewater Pumping Station overnight yesterday, wastewater was released via the emergency outfall into Palm Bay and Margate Sands.

“The site was damaged and suffered a power outage during the heavy storm, and the heavily diluted incoming flows were diverted through the outfall to prevent wastewater backing up and to protect local properties from internal flooding.

“A team had been placed at site in preparation for the bad weather, so was able to immediately begin work to restore services.

“A beach walk happened at first light and a clean-up is under way. No pollution is acceptable to us or our customers. We’re working with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the local authority to assess the impact on the environment.”

Photo Frank Leppard

The damage at the site was caused by a lightning strike.

A Thanet council spokesperson added: “We have been alerted by Southern Water to an incident at the Margate Wastewater Pumping Station following a lightning strike overnight (Thursday 17 June).

 “As a result of this incident wastewater was released via the emergency outfall of the Southern Water pumping station at Foreness.

 “In liaison with the Environment Agency, the council is advising members of the public not to enter the sea or the area of beach below the high water mark on bays between Margate Main Sands and Joss Bay.

 This includes:

  • Margate Main Sands

  • Walpole Bay

  • Palm Bay

  • Foreness

  • Botany Bay

  • Kingsgate Bay

  • Joss Bay

 “Signs have been placed on these beaches and bays to inform beach users. Southern Water has confirmed that the pumping station is now operating as it should and will continue to be closely monitored.

Photo Frank Leppard

 “A clean up operation is now underway. We will continue to work closely with all of the agencies involved to understand the impacts of this incident and the Environment Agency will be carrying out water quality testing to inform the next steps.

“We will keep members of the public informed.”

Last year volunteer litter pickers from the Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate spent more than 100 hours over the six weeks following a similar sewage incident picking up thousands of wet wipes, tampons and other waste.


  1. brilliant idea – this will keep them off the beaches and stop the litter. it could only happen around here

  2. They should install a lightning rod ASAP! I lost my TV last night, and the storm knocked out my bedside clock radio, and Answerphone, not as serious as polluting the beaches though! Churches, and many other tall buildings have lightening rods installed, so get this done too, so it can’t happen again!

    • You lost your power because there was a lightning strike on the electrical distribution system somewhere in Thanet. Maybe that’s why the pumping station lost its power too.

  3. Water companies need to have alternatives to chucking sewage out into the sea, even if there’s a power cut. Shocking that they still think this is acceptable. Lack of investment over decades sadly and chucking it in the sea/river is the easy and cheap solution.

  4. All the time they can set the fines against the cost of paying for upgrades. Keeps the shareholders happy. The worst water company in the Country!

  5. Southern Water FAIL again! When will EA show some teeth and really clobber the Water Company. Same old “sorry” message trotted out as on all the other occasions. Last £2M fine was peanuts to them despite being heralded as a victory to campaigners.

  6. Yes, lets write a report on how we intentionally released untreated water into the sea and cover it up by saying how we saved Thanet from wastewater backing up and flooding local homes!

    Southern Waste, like many other water treatment companies need to be fined massively for these kind of criminal acts! Not acceptable!

    Bad weather is the perfect opportunity for these companies to carry out these acts and then blame it on the weather because then everyone turns a blind eye to what they have really done! Thanet Council need to take action.

  7. It would make a lot of sense to have put a lightning conductor at the station to take the full force straight into the ground where it is harmless. The lightning is attracted to the pumping station because it juts out without any other buildings around. The travellers were lucky to have moved just a few days before too.
    We cannot expect to have raw sewage pumped directly into the sea in these days of environmental enlightenment and no penalties on those companies that do this. There was no excuse not to have a second generator for emergencies. They have had enough warnings, now is time to enforce the safety of all. This has come right in the middle of a heatwave which sees the beaches and water crowded. It’s disgusting this still happens. Southern Water learns nothing from it. Like all big companies they get away with whatever they do.

  8. Rubbish. It was due to their inadequate pumping system having to deal with a lot of rain. Lightning strike? What a terrible excuse.

    • Yes, I get that. There is no sign of a lightning strike on the building which would normally be easily visible. It is strange that they say it knocked out the pump but they had it going again within a couple of hours. This coincides with the extra water running through the sewage pipes which is the usual excuse that the pump cannot cope with it. Their lies are incredible and it’s corporate failure.
      It is the same old thing that happens every time extra water passes through during a storm, It cannot cope and needs uprating with a second pump but SW just ignores the matter as they have nobody enforcing them.

  9. Southern water is not fit for purpose and should be taken over by a company that does know what it’s doing. I bet The travellers are pleased they were NOT camping there. If it’s true that lightning did strike the building.

  10. There *was* a power failure in the early hours due to a lightning strike. The lighting might not have hired the pumping station directly: it could have hit electrical switch gear somewhere.
    I’ve no doubt there are emergency back up generators, but if there was a “spike” in the voltage due to a strike, it might have damaged control gear at the pumping station.

  11. Climate change event? So begins the downfall of humanity. Get used to it or start trying to make a difference. 💚

  12. The water company manages to seriously damage the local economy every year.
    They need a pipe running several miles out to sea to ensure no possibility of pollution on our famous beaches.

  13. According to meteorologists, we will see more and more heavy rain events over the coming years. There’s no doubt that improvements have to be made to sewage systems … but what, when, and how? And who pays?

Comments are closed.