Southern Water ‘making progress’ on beach clean up after waste water release at Margate and Palm Bay

Margate sands Photo John Horton

Southern Water says a 20 person team has been making good progress on the clean-up of the beach area from Margate main sands to Joss Bay following a release of waste water this morning (June 17).

The Margate pumping station was damaged after being hit by lightning during last night’s storm. Wastewater was also released via the emergency outfall into Palm Bay and Margate Sands.

Photo Frank Leppard

Following the release Thanet council issued an alert to 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

Photo Frank Leppard

A Southern Water spokesperson said: “The clean-up is now well advanced, in partnership with Thanet council, and our priority is to ensure that the beaches can re-open safely to the public as quickly as possible.

“The clean-up crew will return to the beach after high tide to check for any residual debris which has washed up on shore and will continue to monitor the coastline tomorrow.

“The pumping station is operating normally following repairs completed earlier today. No pollution is acceptable and we’re working with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the local authority to assess the impact on the environment. We apologise to the local residents and businesses affected by this incident.”

Thanet council says it will be led by the Environment Agency which needs to assess the overall impact and will be completing water quality testing in the area. As soon as TDC is able to lift the advice against bathing it will do so.

The council also has teams out to assess the impact and will continue to monitor the situation closely.
Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate

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. They say this was after Southern Water clean up crews left the area.

The group, which recently received a donation from Pfizer towards the volunteers’ work, also say the water company said there was ‘no budget’ to make a similar contribution.

In 2019 Southern Water was ordered to pay £126million in penalties and rebate payments to customers following serious failures in the operation of its sewage treatment sites and for deliberately misreporting its performance during 2010-2017.

In the course of a large-scale investigation into the water company, Ofwat found that Southern Water failed to operate a number of wastewater treatments works properly, including not making the necessary investment which led to equipment failures and spills of wastewater into the environment.

Ofwat also found that Southern Water staff manipulated the wastewater sampling process which resulted in misreporting information about the performance of a number of sewage treatment sites. This meant the company avoided penalties under Ofwat’s incentive regime.

The response by Southern Water included a restructure of the Executive Team and Board and appointment of a new Director of Risk and Compliance to challenge front-line teams; Strengthened whistle-blowing policies and appointment of an independent adjudicator.

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