Music, poetry, speakers, banners and a blaze of colour will all be in evidence at a demo tomorrow (October 30) protesting at Southern Water discharges into Thanet’s coastline.
Organised by Save Our Seas Ramsgate, the protest is in reaction to releases and pumping station failures which have led to ‘no swimming’ notices around the coast.
It will be staged at the Western Undercliff from midday to 1pm before marching from the Undercliff, along the harbour and to the obelisk by the Wetherspoon pub for music, poetry and the Big Draw Festival.
Organisers are expecting a big and colourful turnout and are asking people to dress up or wear red for emergency.
They will 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, SOS Whitstable and Maxine Morgan who set up the Western Undercliff Regeneration Group.
The rally has adopted Johnny Cash’s song Don’t Go Near The Water as the theme tune. Fishermen, surfers, swimmers and other watersport enthusiasts have been invited.
SOS Ramsgate is calling on Southern Water to:
- provide full details on how and when it will invest in improving Thanet water and sewerage infrastructure and are pressing for a public meeting.
- meet with a deputation from Thanet/Kent to discuss and address urgent concerns.
- pay for independent, regular water testing, which will be published
- provide SOS Ramsgate with three monthly updates across a range of metrics, so that progress, or the lack thereof, can be monitored.
The protest comes on the heels of a demo held in Margate last weekend which had more than 300 people in attendance.
Organised by Save Our NHS in Kent, the demo heard from a series of speakers. Campaigners say this is only the first in a series of protest actions they plan to take against Southern Water. They aim to work with environmental and community groups across the county to take concerted action against the water company.
SONIK’s Candy Gregory said: “Year after year Southern Water has pumped raw sewage into the sea off the coast of Kent. They are committing serial crimes against the health and environment of the people — they must be stopped.”
In September Southern Water agreed to commission a full drainage survey of Margate and the surrounding areas in order to improve resilience of Foreness Point pumping station. The survey, estimated to come at a cost of some £400,000, will record all of the water pathways that contribute surface water and rain water to the drainage system. It will also assess the amount of water which is added to the system during storm periods.
The aim is to reduce runoff reaching the treatment works and reduce the risk of emergency spills.
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 this month. 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.”
However, the government has now U-turned, announcing this week that the Environment Bill “will be further strengthened with an amendment that will see a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows.”
Southern Water says it welcomes the Government’s announcement that it will amend the Environment Bill, currently going through Parliament.
Ian McAulay, Southern Water’s CEO, said: “We welcome the strengthening of the Environment Bill, and we are proceeding immediately with action and investment. We are already acting now to cut pollution incidents by 80 per cent over the next four years and we believe we can achieve a similar reduction in storm releases by 2030.
“All 83 of our bathing waters meet strict European standards, a challenge which 20 years ago seemed impossible, but was delivered. Now we want to take the next steps which is why we are investing over £2 billion on improving our wastewater network. This investment is on track and is already making a tangible difference in communities across our region.
“Another visible and public example of our commitment to tackle this problem is our industry leading Beachbuoy app. This provides near real-time information on releases of stormwater and is part of our drive to be as transparent as possible. This initiative will make it easy for everyone to hold us to account in reducing storm overflows and we are confident our customers will see a real improvement as our investment programme begins take effect.
“In order to go faster and further we are already looking at innovative solutions to reduce storm releases while ensuring value for money. We think it is achievable with the right partnerships and collaboration underpinned by policy. The first of these proposals, all incorporating nature based approaches, will be published for consultation in the next few weeks.
“To ensure action happens we have launched a dedicated task force which will work with customers and regional stakeholders to focus on reducing the number of these incidents as quickly as possible. We are certain a holistic approach, working with local government and stakeholders is the way forward to reach the targets we all want to achieve.”
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.
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