A demonstration to protest at Southern Water pumping station and combined sewer discharges into the Thanet coastline will be held in Ramsgate on Saturday (October 30).
Organised by Ramsgate residents and sea swimmers, the protest will be staged at the Western Undercliff from midday to 1pm.
Organisers are expecting a big and colourful turnout and are asking people to wear fancy dress or red for ‘emergency’. They hope to be joined by other Save our Seas groups from around Kent, musicians, poets and speakers, including Margate councillor Rob Yates who has been investigating Southern Water practices, Ramsgate mayor Raushan Ara, Green councillor Tricia Austin and a speaker from Whitstable’s SOS campaign.
County Councillor Karen Constantine, who has been involved in organising the demo, said: “It’s time overdue to stop Southern Water pumping out raw sewage into our sea and onto our beaches.
“It’s time overdue to call on our politicians to take action to protect our seas and our health and well-being.
“It’s time overdue to bring the water companies into public ownership! This is a massive failure of privatisation. Public services and fresh clean water should be for the public good not for shareholders bank accounts. Southern Water shareholders made £622 million profits between 2013 – 2017. A cool £57 billion has been taken off the top of our bills by water companies in the last 30 years! That money should be ploughed back into to infrastructure projects, ending leaking water pipes and rebuilding Victorian sewers.
“What we need now is our politicians to lead, we need a map to show exactly how the water companies are going to be bought under control, water companies need to be forced to invest in infrastructure and to stop polluting our seas and rivers.”
The protests follow 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.
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.
A public protest was held in June at the Foreness pumping station and another, organised by Save Our NHS in Kent, was held on Margate harbour steps last weekend.
In response to the SONiK hosted protest Southern Water said: “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.
“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.
“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.
“Our industry-leading pollution reporting and online storm water release portal, Beachbuoy, is are 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.
“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.”
A proposal from the Lords to the Environment Bill that would have placed legal duties on the companies to reduce discharges was defeated by 265 MPs’ votes to 202 last week.
South Thanet MP voted against government and was in favour of the Lords’ amendment. North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale could not vote as he chaired the Bill through the committee stages but has voiced his view that “Southern Water (should) take responsibility for their actions.”
A petition calling for a ban on water companies discharging raw sewage into water courses gained 111,434 signatures and will be debated in Parliament on November 15.