Advice not to swim at 11 Thanet beaches still in place as council leader sends scathing letter to Southern Water

Clean up operation Photo Frank Leppard

Advice remains in place today (June 21) for members of the public not to enter the sea or the area of beach below the high water mark at a number of Thanet beaches.

This follows a wastewater release at the Southern Water Margate Wastewater Pumping Station overnight June 16/17 due to a lightning strike and recent heavy rainfall.

The clean up continues Photo Frank Leppard

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

  • Minnis Bay
  • West Bay
  • St Mildreds Bay
  • Westbrook
  • Margate Main Sands
  • Walpole Bay
  • Palm Bay
  • Foreness
  • Botany Bay
  • Kingsgate Bay
  • Joss Bay

Signs remain in place at these bays to inform beach users.

A clean up operation around the coast led by Southern Water has continued throughout the weekend. Efforts remain in place to ensure that the beaches are cleaned before the advice is lifted.

Thanet District Council teams have been out since the incident occurred to assess the impact on the coast. Evidence from ongoing visual inspections is showing an improving picture and the council is hopeful the advice will be lifted soon.

Council Leader, Cllr Ash Ashbee has written to the Chief Executive of Southern Water  to express her concerns following the incident.

In the letter Cllr Ashbee says expresses “utter dismay” at the pumping station failure.

She adds: “Given the repetitive failure of this plant for over a decade, I do not accept that an act of God is in any way an excuse for this latest environmental and financial disaster in our district.

“Surely your company has an emergency protocol in place to mitigate against any such eventuality at what is a critical part of your infrastructure.

“In a court case in September 2016, Judge Adele Williams, who imposed a £2m fine on Southern Water, said: “The message must go out to directors and shareholders that repeated offending of this nature is wholly unacceptable.”

“Also, she added Southern Water’s problems at Margate had first been identified in 2010. However, yet again, we find ourselves back in the same catastrophic situation with beaches closed and businesses that are struggling to recover from the pandemic, losing tens of thousands of pounds in trade.

Photo Frank Leppard

“Despite Southern Water Director Simon Oates at the time apologising unreservedly for the failure at Foreness Point, and confirming since 2012 that £4m had been invested in the site and a further £6m investment plan was in place, you clearly have not resolved the issue.

“On behalf of the residents and businesses of Thanet I request that Southern Water recognises its failures and compensates both TDC for the costs incurred with the clean-up operation and all local businesses for their loss of trade.

“I invite you to address TDC Members at a briefing to firstly, explain the failure at Foreness and secondly, what guarantees you are prepared to give that this situation will not reoccur and what steps you will be taking to ensure the same.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Southern Water says the lightning strike 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.

A compensation scheme for local businesses has been made available by Southern Water and business owners affected by this incident are advised to make a claim.

Local businesses affected should contact [email protected]

‘Wastewater release’ protest march demanding action from Southern Water


  1. funny thing – this place is a s**t hole , and now the beaches and the sea is full of it – put that in the tourist information shop !!!!!!

  2. The situation doesn’t look any different there is still some in the corner next to the slipway next to Manning’s and the lifeboat gates.The tide doesn’t come that far up needs cleaning up on observation last evening there was people walking along the strand line picking things up and a man by the tidal pool with a tripod and camera don’t know who he was. Totally agree with the council leader this is not good enough once again happens over the years they must compensate paying customers as well.

  3. Fine them (Southern Water) £10,000,000.00 this time, plus clearance costs. It might make them change the crappy (pun) way they do there business (2nd pun) round here. If there is another case in the future – £20,000,000.00! Just double the fine each time this grotesque “accident” happens.

  4. Back in the Eighties, we supplied a mains failure generator to Mars (mars bar) head office, it was designed to cut in should mains power be lost, I realise computers back then we’re vastly different from those of today but it worked, the office staff didn’t even notice the change over. You would like to think this technology is even further advanced these days.

    • What SW said was that the power surge knocked out the telemetry (that’s the remote monitoring equipment). So even though the emergency generators started up, there was no way of activating appropriate pumps and valve gear.

  5. It should be Southern Water clearing up the mess and incurring all the costs involved – not TDC who then have to try and claw the money back. The fines should be in proportion to the extent of the problem with an additional amount based on how many days our beaches are out of bounds. That might just ensure Southern Water clean up as quickly at possible.

    • At the end of the day, it’ll be us, the customers, who foot the bill. Sure as anything the shareholders’ dividends won’t be affected.

  6. about these beautiful beaches and coastline – you must be looking at different photos to me and a lot of others then ? wake up and smell the sewage !

  7. I don’t care for this hero act, you at thanet council suck at your jobs just as much as southern water. Sort out everything not just this. I could take pictures of everything you could be sorting out and youd all be sacked for doing nothing for years. So many unemployed but so many jobs to be made and done. Just take a look at your employees fir example walking through alleyways where they finally after nearly a year cut down the weeds thorns ect but just leave it on the floor and all the litter. Binmen being way to loud and not collecting and some abusing the bin “owner”. These towns have so much potential but instead are just cheap scummy places with nothing to do. You bring alot of the anger on yourselves. Sort it the !@#$ out.

  8. Going full Tory on them – sending a strongly worded letter.

    Pathetic from the council leader. Why would anything else be expected from a Conservative “levelling up the country” – shame on those that vote for these charlatans- they level up themselves

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