Demonstration held in Margate against Southern Water ‘unscreened wastewater’ discharges into our seas

Protest in Margate Photo Isabelle De Ridder

A crowd of some 200 people have turned out, with more still arriving, to voice their disgust at the series of unscreened wastewater releases into our seas by Southern Water.

The protests follow repeated combined sewer releases and failures at Southern Water pumping stations which have led to warnings to stay out of the water. The most recent were this month and in June which resulted in the majority of Thanet bays displaying warning signs to stay out of the water.

Photo Isabelle De Ridder

In June advice was issued against swimming at 11 Thanet beaches after a wastewater release from the Foreness pumping station. There have also been numerous combined sewer outflows affecting water quality.

Photo Carly Jeffrey

Today’s protest on the Margate harbour steps and beach is being co-ordinated by health campaigners from Save Our NHS in Kent.

Photo Carl Hudson

Save Our NHS In Kent (SONIK) is calling for the water company to be brought back under public ownership and to be made directly accountable for their impact on health and the environmental.

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A spokesperson for SONIK said: “Year after year Southern Water has pumped raw sewage into the sea off the coast of Kent. These poisonous discharges pose an enormous risk to public health — they must be stopped.”

Photo Isabelle De Ridder

Speakers at today’s rally include author Julie Wassmer who is involved with Whitstable’s campaign against the waste releases. Members of Surfers Against Sewage, Thanet Green Party and Ramsgate mayor Raushan Ara also joined the demonstration and paddleboarders and others took to the water as part of the protest.

Photo Carly Jeffrey

A second compensation request is being made of Southern Water by Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee following the closure of 14 isle beaches and bays this month.

Photo Carl Hudson

Cllr Ashbee has threatened to  “add a nought” to the £100,000 received from the water company to compensate for the disruption and costs due to a previous discharge made from the Foreness pumping station in June.

Southern Water says: “We take all concerns raised with us about the performance of our network very seriously. Anyone attending this event can be reassured we hear their concerns and are working hard to improve our performance, with our customers and the environment at the heart of all we do.

“Bathing waters are the cleanest since Environment Agency (EA) testing records began. Of the 83 beaches in Southern Water’s area, 62 are rated good or excellent and none are below acceptable standards. We are spending £2 billion on our infrastructure and the environment, to serve our customers, the environment and boost local economies around our 700 miles of coastline.

Photo Carl Hudson

“Reports about E Coli levels based on unofficial testing can undermine peoples’ confidence in official, independent testing and reporting. The EA website reports on the levels of E Coli in bathing waters and has clear parameters in place for safety.  E Coli is a very large family of bacteria which occurs frequently in sea water. Very few strains are harmful to humans.

“E Coli in sea water can be due to seagull and all bird droppings, dog waste, agricultural run-off, and litter from beaches. Wastewater can also enter the water via shipping vessels and leisure boats. Even bathing water samples taken and rated excellent through the Environment Agency’s independent bathing water testing programme will contain levels of E Coli, because it comes from a wide variety of sources.

Photo by Steven Collis

“Storm releases during intense periods of rainfall are made through long sea outfalls usually around 2km out to sea and are not raw sewage. They are often more than 95% rainwater. Storm releases operate to protect customers’ homes, schools, hospitals and businesses from flooding and they are tightly regulated by the EA.

Photo Steven Collis

“We are working towards reducing our reliance on storm releases as quickly as possible. There are huge challenges to overcome from  climate change, which we know is going to increase the frequency of intense rainfall events. The population of our region will have increased by 15% in the next 25 years.

“We are pioneering a new approach, building more storm tank capacity where it will have an impact, and prioritising partnership working to prevent rain from reaching our systems through sustainable drainage, water gardens and major natural capital solutions such as enhanced and expanded wetlands.

Photo Steven Collis

“Our industry-leading pollution reporting and online storm water release portal, Beachbuoy, is evidence of our commitment to openness and transparency. We accept and support the public’s call for these practices to change and we are working towards this common goal in partnership with our whole sector, government and a broad range of national and local partners. We are determined to reduce pollutions by more than 50% by 2025.

Photo Isabelle De Ridder

“We invite those involved with the protest to meet with us to hear about our work, our investment and our commitment to improve service to our customers and discuss ways to work together to achieve a goal we share, to protect the environment.”

Photo Isabelle De Ridder

MP Craig Mackinlay is among the MPs who rejected amendments to the Environment Bill put forward by the House of Lords.

(Clarification: Mr Mackinlay voted against government on one of the amendments) One of the Lords amendments was imposing a duty on water companies to “take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows”. Mr Mackinlay was one of a handful of Conservatives who voted against a government amendment to remove sections of the Lords Amendment concerning combined sewer overflows. This change was however voted through by a slim majority, meaning a vote in favour of parts it being removed.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale was unable to vote on the amendments or the Environment Bill itself as he chaired the Bill through the committee stages and as chair, is obliged by parliamentary rule to take a neutral position in the voting lobby.

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The bill will be returned to the House of Lords where amendments made by the House of Commons will be considered.


  1. So our completely useless Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay voted against amendments to the Environment bill which would address this. He continues his contempt for his constituents and instead cosies up to the polluters as usual. Shame on him, and we’ll done the Greens for supporting this protest.

    • Quite agree, Ramsgate Lover. I trust the voters in the Thanet Villages will remember this when it comes to choosing a candidate to represent their interests on polling day! So long as the Tories insist on delaying action on the environemnt, the seas will continue to be used as a toilet overflow by companies such as Southern Water, who care only about their shareholders.

      • He voted against government on the changes to the Lords amendment over combined sewer outflows. Entirely my fault for not including that, I have done it now.

      • The Green Party are the only party who’s candidate Abi Smith (for said election ) that has knocked on our doors in Acol and from what I’ve heard from the villagers that I’ve spoken to , she is going to get their vote .
        Non have voted for the Green Party before but have had enough with this continued situation with Southern Water plus they’ve had enough of Buffoon P.M Boris .
        I think more people will be feeling like this in our area .

      • It was Roger Gale, tory MP for Thanet North who voted with the Government, so in effect with Southern Water, no doubt he has shares in the company. This cretin only does what is best for him and his crony business mates. His contempt for all the important issues in Thanet is disgusting. He should retire now and let someone else take the job of looking after his constituents.

    • He voted against government on the changes to the Lords amendment over combined sewer outflows. Entirely my fault for not including that, I have done it now. He voted with government on the other amendments

  2. Would only make in impact if they turned up at the fat cat directors mansions, took a combined dump in their swimming pools & see how they like it.

  3. Everyone – come to the next Save Our Seas protest at Ramsgate’s Western Undercliffe on 30th October 12 – 1 pm.

    • Yes see you there. Let’s keep going with the wave of protests round the Kent Coast! Whitstable, Margate, Ramsgate – who is next?

  4. Craig Mackinley’s rejection of the amendment shows the utter contempt he has for the area he is meant to represent. Shame on him.

    • He voted against government on the changes to the Lords amendment over combined sewer outflows. Entirely my fault for not including that, I have done it now.

    • Thanks for the clarification Kathy. Well done to Craig McKinley for doing the right thing. Let’s hope this is the dawn of a new era, when he puts the health and welfare of his constituents, rather than putting his constituents in second place to the Tory schemes that undermine their health and welfare

      • Thanks for the clarification Kathy. Well done to Craig McKinley for doing the right thing. Let’s hope this is the dawn of a new era, when he puts the health and welfare of his constituents FIRST, rather than putting his constituents in second place to the Tory schemes that undermine their health and welfare

  5. My apologies for maligning Craig so badly on this particular issue. His contempt for the electorate is amply demonstrated in many other areas, particularly climate change, where his views fly in the face of the scientific evidence and the views of the vast majority.

  6. Until we vote this wilfully incompetent, and deadly government out, criminally negligent firms like Southern Water will continue to exist and prosper. The dishonesty and lack of accountability displayed time and again by these individuals beggars belief.
    I thought that MP’s and governments were elected to look after the people they serve, not treat them with contempt.

  7. I’m a newcomer to the area of Ramsgate.
    I was shocked to hear this report and the sheer irresponsibility of M.P’s and Southern Water.
    I will definitely be attending the next rally.

    • Welcomed to Thanet Betsy, I hope you will be happy here, but don’t drink the water! Most 3rd world countries would be ashamed if they had a sewage system like ours, discharging human waste not only into the sea, but most rivers as well! How much do we pay SWA shareholders for this?

  8. As a member of Save Our NHS In Kent I welcome Southern Water offering to meet the protesters. A public zoom meeting would be brilliant for each side to put their view and SW explain their solutions. Good idea??

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