‘Wastewater release’ protest march demanding action from Southern Water

Wastewater release protest at the Margate pumping station Photo Frank Leppard

Protesters gathered today (June 20) to march from the Thanet council offices in Margate to the Southern Water pumping station at Foreness to show their anger over the latest discharge of wastewater into Thanet’s beaches.

Eleven of the isle’s beaches and bays have been affected by the discharge and advice against swimming in the water at these sites remains.

The wastewater was released via the emergency outfall into Palm Bay and Margate Sands. during the storm on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Clare Smith Photography

Southern Water says this was due to a lightning strike at the wastewater pumping station which caused a power outage and also disabled the telemetry systems, causing the discharge via the outfall. Power was restored to the site via power from the emergency generator but not in time to help the telemetry to control the site as intended.

Among those at today’s protest – organised by the ACORN Margate group – was Margate Central ward councillor Rob Yates who said Southern Water’s chief executive should have come to Margate to provide an update on the situation.

Cllr Yates said: He needs to provide an update on the clean up, an update on their technical fix, and a clear compensation link for businesses who have lost trade due to their mistake.

“There needs to be accountability for these situations and the decent thing for the chief executive of Southern Water to do is to come to Margate and explain himself in person.”

Photo Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate

Volunteers from the Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate also joined the march at Palm Bay. Member Barry Manners said: “The tide is now coming in. Southern Water has had all afternoon to clean and litter pick Botany Bay. Yet a 10 minute cursory inspection reveals sanitary towels and other sewage waste below the high tide mark – only to be washed out to sea tonight.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Members of the group spent more than 100 hours over the six weeks following a similar sewage incident last year, picking up thousands of wet wipes, tampons and other waste.

Photo Frank Leppard

Thanet Green Party and Surfers Against Sewage members were also in today’s crowd of around 100 people.

Protestors want compensation for local businesses affected by reduced tourist traffic, for customers and a commitment for improved infrastructure at the pumping station.

Photo Frank Leppard

This morning Southern Water issued a statement to say a compensation scheme is open and investigation into the wastewater release continues.

Dr Nick Mills, Head of Pollution and Flooding Resilience at Southern Water, said: “No pollution is acceptable to us or our customers and we apologise for the impact the latest incident has had on local residents, businesses and the environment.

“We are dedicated to protecting the environment and reducing pollution incidents is a top priority for us.

Photo Frank Leppard

“We have invested £3.2billion across our region in the last six years to improve the capacity and efficiency of the wastewater network and will continue to do, with a  further £1.7billion committed for the next four years.

Photo Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate

“As part of the Government’s CSO Task Force we are committed to tackling this national and complex issue and we are leading the way with the publication of our comprehensive Pollution Incident Reduction Plan last year.

Photo Frank Leppard

“Wastewater releases at times of heavy rainfall happen across the UK to protect properties from flooding. The release that happened overnight on 16 June was caused by a combination of heavy rainfall and lightning strike during the storms which caused a short power failure and affected systems on site at our Margate Water Pumping Station.

Clare Smith Photography

“ Back-up generators are in place. As part of our preparations for the predicted thunderstorms and heavy rainfall we also had a team standing by in the area. These additional precautionary measures meant we were able to immediately begin work restoring the site to full operation.

Photo Frank Leppard

“Unfortunately, we had to make this emergency release to protect local homes and businesses from internal flooding.

“Our investigations into this incident are ongoing and we continue to work closely with the Environment Agency and Thanet District Council. We continue to monitor the coastline and clean-up after each high tide.

“A compensation scheme for businesses is available and business owners affected by this incident can make a claim.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Southern Water says it is already liaising with affected businesses and says anyone who has not had contact can call the usual customer line and staff will help them start the claim process.

In liaison with the Environment Agency, advice against bathing is in place at the following bays:

Minnis Bay

West Bay

St Mildreds Bay


Margate Main Sands

Walpole Bay

Palm Bay


Botany Bay

Kingsgate Bay

Joss Bay

Signs have been placed on these bays to inform beach users.


  1. Our most fundamental right is being about to question companies, holding the government to account and protesting.

    However, this isn’t protesting.

    This is a bunch of unemployed lunatic people hiding behind apparent “protesting”. The same lunatic people that support XR, who are part of the Green and Labour establishment and who tried to stop Brexit but failed miserably.

    The general working folk understand why this release happened.

    I say no more.

    • Your answer is then? Just roll over and say nowt?
      There is always room for improvement and those people want it. If you say nothing you get nothing!

    • Well said TheBox. I noticed the social distancing and wearing of face masks somewhat lacking by participating people on this demonstration walk.

      • Your a pillock The Box, your one of these idiots who are content to allow big businesses, and government agencies to walk all over you! SWA was once publicly owned, and my guess is now that its been privatised, the problem is a design fault to save money for the company shareholders! A back up pump should have kicked in immediately there was a loss of power from the Grid! Thats what happens on Power Stations, because all power stations do not use the power they generate. The Japanese nuclear power station disaster happened once they lost power from the national grid, and the back up generators were overwhelmed by the sea! That meant the reactor core overheated, and blew up! But had the back up generators not been knocked out they would have allowed normal reactor cooling. So my guess is SWA didn’t build in a sufficient back up generator to kick in the instant the pumping station loss power from the grid! It knocked out my tele as well, but I don’t have a back up generator!

  2. Compensation isn’t good enough, it is the height of the tourist season and this is shocking incompetence.

    Why is there no statement from TDC?

  3. A really good turnout for today’s demonstration, arranged at short notice by ACORN.
    The damage to our coastline caused by Southern Waters negligence has to be punished and has to stop.
    Southern water are owned by Greensands Holdings LTD, a consortium made up of investment and pension funds, the largest being JP Morgan Asset Management and UBS Asset Management and while they are happier paying them dividends rather than investing in the necessary infrastructure upgrades, nothing will change.

    • Absolutely Mike, it was a great turnout. Without substantial investment in the infrastructure, these events will not only continue but get worse and become more frequent: with a growing population, and with the increasing number of extreme weather events due to global heating (long droughts followed by severe sudden rainfall for example).

    • Precisely my point Mike! A private company more interested in paying dividends to its shareholders, is likely to cut corners, which I suspect is the case here! I worked as a CEGB engineer on nuclear power stations, and they are designed to not only have back up plant, but also back up, back up plant! Its over engineered deliberately, because its unacceptable for a reactor core to overheat and create a “China Syndrome”, just because a piece of plant failed!

  4. “Yet a 10 minute cursory inspection reveals sanitary towels..”
    You really shouldn’t be putting this stuff down the loo. It’s a shocking indictment of Thanet’s population.

    • Don’t think that just happens in Thanet, get your head out the clouds. Is the entire country that seems to use the toilets as waste disposal fro everything. Speak to any water company and they will tell you

  5. Good that people felt.passionate, shame i constantlty heard with word sh*t through a loudhailer with my 3 year old, whilst having a drink.

  6. I do find this mid class rebels in thanet really quiet funny.

    They love for all things arty.

    Trying to save weeds trees, No Mow May making thanet look really scruffy and uncared for. Yet I bet some have paved or put decking over their own lawns :).

    We did proper demos when I was a youngster, pole tax, fighting to save communities from the wicked whitch Thatcher.etc etc.

  7. “poll” and “witch”.
    Perhaps, had you spent more time in school, rather than being involved in “demos” … ?

  8. It was fathers day yesterday, my 13 yr old daughter, swims in the tidal pool and the sea, she felt strongly that she wanted to make her feelings known, as a lunatic labour supporter, i also felt strongly that I’d support her on her first demonstration. Oh I work btw, so sorry to disappoint some of you on here who think demos are just for the unemployed.

  9. I was there and I don’t have a job, but that’s because I built up several business from scratch and sold so I could retire at 40 with several homes and a comfortable income…..

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