Wastewater release at Foreness affects 10 Thanet beaches and bays

Warning signs following waste water discharge Photo John Horton

Southern Water says action to clean up the Margate beach area after a release of wastewater from the emergency outfall at Foreness Point on Wednesday night has been completed – but updated information also reveals Westbrook and Westgate beaches have been affected bringing the total to ten.

The release was due to a lightning strike at the wastewater pumping station and resulted in Thanet council issuing a warning not to enter the sea or the area of beach below the high water mark on bays between Margate Main Sands and Joss Bay, and now Westbrook and Westgate.

Affected beaches:

Photo Frank Leppard

Margate Main Sands

Walpole Bay

Palm Bay


Botany Bay

Kingsgate Bay

Joss Bay

West Bay

St Mildreds


A Southern Water spokesperson said: “An initial clean-up was completed yesterday afternoon, with further action by the clean-up crew after high tide yesterday evening to ensure any additional debris washed up on shore was removed promptly. We will continue to monitor the coastline today and act quickly should further debris be identified.

“Minimising the impact of this incident has been our priority throughout. While the release was heavily diluted with rain water and ran for a relatively short period of time, no pollution is acceptable to us or our customers. We continue to work closely with the Environment Agency, Natural England and the local authority to assess the impact on the environment.

“In partnership with Thanet council our priority is focussed on beach users being able to enjoy the water.”

The beaches have signs in place to warn the public of the risk. There has been no indication as yet when they will be ‘reopened.’

A Thanet council statement says: “Thanet District Council teams are out to assess the impact and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

“The Environment Agency will be completing water quality testing in the area which will help inform the next steps.

“As soon as we are able to lift the advice against bathing we will do so and we will continue to keep beach users and the wider public updated.”

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. The fourness NON pumping station is not man enough for the job, when we have heavy rain storms the station cannot cope add to that the thousands of extra houses that have been built in Thanet. I don’t believe the station was struck by lightning at all, the pumping station was built on the cheap. Southern Water should be fined £200,000,000, two hundred million pounds.

  2. You could be right Bill, its a relatively easy job to calculate the size of pumps required to handle the sewage of a an area the size of Thanet I would have thought! Does SWA have the pumping station insured? Or is this an act of God? Churches and many other high risk building have to have a Lighting Rod installed, as a requirement for insurance, if they didn’t have one, it means we will be paying for the cleanup out of our water bills!

  3. It is false information about the lightning. There is no evidence of lightning damage to the pumping station and no record of it being hit on any of the UK or world Lightning maps. They used that as an excuse to tell us it is out of their hands when of course it was not.

    SW have a reputation for not updating the pumping station with adequate equipment and have been fined before. It is a regular occurrence whenever there is sudden heavy rainfall because the station cannot cope. A second or more powerful pump is overdue and until SW actually spend some money on doing this the spills of raw sewage into the sea, damaging the environment and stopping people people from using the beaches, will continue each time the pump is overloaded.
    There should now be priority enforcement on SW to uprate the North Foreland pumping station.

  4. When this happens, the local residents should have their water bills scrapped for the year, when it happens again, they should be reimbursed the previous years bills. It’s us that are affected, it’s is that should be compensated. Until the cost to Southern water, is more than the cost of updating their operation,we will continue to have our beaches polluted.

  5. I don’t think it was hit by lightning. I live 500m away and didn’t count any thunder within 12secs of the lightning. So it might have lit up the sky, but it was a long way away

  6. It’s a fact that parts of Thanet lost electrical power due to a lightning strike somewhere. It might not have actually happened in Thanet, but it disrupted power supplies.
    I don’t understand why Southern Water would blame a lightning strike, if that wasn’t the case. It doesn’t absolve them from the responsibility for discharging sewage onto the beach.
    As for compensation: when they did a similar thing in 2019, they were obliged to refund rate payers to the tune of £123M

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