Advice against going in water at Thanet beaches and bays now lifted

Advice against bathing is being lifted Photo John Horton

Following a clean up operation and inspections around the coast, advice for the public not to enter the sea or the area of beach below the high water mark has today (Wednesday 23 June) been lifted.

Signs will now be removed at the 11 bays where guidance against bathing had previously been in place following a lightning strike at the Margate wastewater pumping station overnight on June 16/17.

Southern Water says the 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.

Photo John Horton

It resulted in a release from the outfall pipes into Palm Bay and Margate Sands which has impacted the majority of Thanet’s coastline.

Southern Water teams will remain out around the coast to continue to monitor the situation. Members of the public are advised to contact Southern Water on 0330 303 0368 to report any concerns should there be further evidence of any impact following the high tides.

Margate pumping station Photo Rob Yates

A Thanet council statement says: “Throughout the incident the council has continued to seek advice and guidance around bathing water quality in liaison with the Environment Agency. Due to the time that has elapsed and the number of tidal cycles that have passed, it is considered a notable reduction in risk.

“Following a constructive meeting between senior council officials, the local MPs and the Chief Executive of Southern Water yesterday, assurances have been provided that reasonable compensation will be provided by Southern Water, to local businesses that have been directly impacted.

“A commitment to cover the costs incurred by the council in responding to the incident has also been provided, along with an offer to fund community related beach support in the coming weeks.”

However, Barry Manners, from the Friends of Botany Bay and Kingsgate group, says wet wipes and other contaminants are still littering the beaches and being swept in and out by the tide.

Two volunteers from the group were at Kingsgate yesterday and said they collected “too many to count” wet wipes and sanitary towels on the falling tide.

Photo Friends of Kingsgate and Botany Bay

Barry said the volunteers had seen “no sign” of Southern Water cleaners, adding: “We have 11 affected beaches and bays, litter pickers should be out there on all those beaches.

“There were sanitary towels covering Walpole Bay yesterday and Botany Bay.”

Mr McAuly said: “At our meeting with Thanet District Council leader, Councillor Ash Ashbee, the district council’s CEO Madeline Homer and local MPs Sir Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay we repeated the commitment to compensate local businesses directly affected by the incident, we are acutely aware of the additional pressures that businesses have experienced as a result of Covid.

“We made this offer last week and have invited directly affected businesses to contact us with information about the impact the incident has had on their business activities.

“In addition, we also agreed to work in partnership with the council to fund additional community and environment work around the beaches area over the summer.”

Local businesses affected should contact [email protected] in the first instance.

Southern Water chief meets council team and MPs over impact of wastewater release on Thanet’s beaches and bays


  1. What was tested at each bay, and what are the results? After such an appalling degradation of our sea water and beaches the public deserve to know.

  2. It was not just businesses affected by loss in trade, residents have been affected in not being able to use the beaches or swim in the sea. Taking away the notices on the say of Southern Water is dangerous too when they have not been cleaning as promised and have left it to local communities to pick it all up. There is still bits and bobs in the sand, the seaweed and the water floating around and that will be a danger to health with bacteria, E-coli and other diseases lying in wait. This will carry on for weeks like it did last year after another load of sewage pumped out into the sea.
    SW need to build a new sewage plant for Thanet and be stopped pumping into rivers and the sea when overwhelmed. There are thousands more people living in Thanet and the old system is not up to it any longer, it hasn’t been for years!

    • Well said, the locals will know the dangers but visitors will not be so clued up. The nhs is busy enough at the moment.

      Have SW stated how much sewage was pumped out?

      SW could rename Foreness point to omnishambles point.

  3. I will not be rushing into those waters and I urge others to do the same and put pressure on Council, MPs and southern water to sort this issue and sort it for good

  4. Pathetic response by Southern Water and TDC; inexcusable lack of information and signage at several bays resulting in people being on beaches and at risk.
    TDC is negligent in not having an emergency plan arrangement whereby any event that requires beaches to be closed can be put into action quickly and effectively, and their people on the ground kept fully informed of events and able to manage the public correctly.
    As for Southern Water, there must be no hiding place for their directors who must be punished personally for their incompetence, a fine or other penalty on the company will simply end up on Southern Water customers doormats.

  5. Reasonable compensation is not enough. It needs a system able to cope & more. Also no remote control, put people there 24 hours a day to run it. The current situation is a joke.

  6. All sounds very cosy, so please excuse my scepticism. Southern Water have previous on polluting the sea and failing to clear the aftermath and Thanet Council are hardly a model of probity and sound governance.

    Where was the water quality testing?
    What were results for E coli and all other usual pathogens?
    What time and states of tide?
    Who commissioned the tests?
    Which lab carried out tests?
    Will SW be arranging overseas “fact finding” trips for TDC officers to investigate other coastal resorts sewage handling?

  7. And they still want 1000s of houses built, can’t control waste now so how can things get better. STOP THESES HOUSES BEING BUILT AND RETHINK THIS STUPID BUILDING, NOT IN THANET.WHY ALL IN KENT WHEN THE REST OF THE UK IS NOT INVOLVED

  8. Why would anybody want to go into the water? Aside from the never ending sewage releases from companies like Southern Water, you also are swimming in the various rubbish people dump in there & dumping of garbage/toxic chemicals by companies like Trafigura, along of course with accidental spills from accidents/leakage.

  9. I have swum in the sea all my life and have never become ill from water conditions. Sea swimming is a great pleasure- that’s why people want to do it.

    • Swim in it all you like Marva. For some people getting ecoli could kill them. Oh, and don’t forget Covid-19.
      If you fell into the Thames mid-century, you had to go to hospital to get your stomach pumped.

      • I know about how polluted the Thames was. Even when I lived in London I never wanted to swim in it. But the sea is different. Sewage discharge is far less common now.

  10. The foreness station came on line around 1988 , before that the isles sewage was all dumped out of short sea outfalls, the system has to increasingly deal with waste for which it was not intended (sanitary towels, disposable nappies, wet wipes, cotton buds, floss et etc) all of which should be disposed of by other means but people can’t be bothered.

    Large parts of thanet have a combined rainwater and sewage system so in timesmof intense rainfall the holding ponds are soon filled, normally the “moonclock” ( which dumps waste out through tthe longsea outfall when the tides would take the waste away from the beaches) is overridden at such times and waste pumped out the long sea outfall to relieve the holding tanks, but when all this goes wrong the failsafe is to dump via the shortsea outfalls, not to do so would risk the system backing up and flooding the town and properties.

    How much redundancy are southern water customers willing to pay for? It is technically possible to plan and design for everymoccurence but each layer adds to the cost exponentially. As for whining about sanitary towels and wet wipes on the coast line , that’s more a matter of irresponsible disposal than a failure by southern water who are trying to deal with a lazy population.

    Prior to the long sea outfalls and the Cleansweep project that created them, mostmof the southcoast just dumped its sewage a couple of hundred yards offshore through old victoria cast iron pipes, many of which are retained today for use as emergency discharge points.

    There are townsmon the cornish coast that had many houses that dumped their waste direct from toilets into a tidal river only yards from their windows at any time of day as recently as the mid 90’s.

    • Wonderful story, but it doesn’t change the fact that Southern Water have the money for the upgrades but they would rather keep it as profit for their directors and share holders. They do the absolute minimum they can get away with as many privately owned companies do in these circumstances. The reason being is that for any shareholder driven company profit is king.

      • Its called running a business, which to date has not had to provide 100% surety against storm discharges, if that business is compelled to do so then its a change to its business model and the costs are borne by its customers. Its all very well criticising the way the water system is run but this overlooks the state of the water industry and its inefficiencies when it was priviatised having been run into the ground by many diffferent governments. The current pumping station was built to the required standard of the day if thats to be improved then the customer pays.

        Its too easy to forget that prior to the foreness station coming into use everything that went down the toilet went straight out to see, the current arrangement is a vast improvement. Not that it couldn’t be improved again if we all pay more.

        • Which is exactly why it should never have been privatised in the first place and needs bringing back to public ownership, but that’s a different story.

          To your last point, it doesn’t mean paying more. Look at the profits from Southern Water last year, if anything we should be paying less. They are sitting on a pile of cash while offering a substandard service.

          • The price is regulated by Ofwat so theoretically the profits made are considered acceptable. The government both central and local have endlessly proved that they are incapable of running any sort of large organisation on a cost effective basis, ( look at the state of thanets finances and services).

            Whats your opinion on all the waste flushed by the public that shouldn’t be be, just because its the easy option? It’d be interesting to know the costs involved in screening it out and disposing of it.

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