A public meeting in Thanet hosted by Southern Water has been postponed.
The meeting, to discuss Southern Water improvement plans in light of wastewater releases that shut a large number of isle beaches in June and October, was earmarked to take place on January 13.
Initially it was proposed to hold the meeting at St George’s school in Broadstairs but the school has cancelled venue bookings. It was then arranged to be held at St Peter’s hall but concerns were raised over the liited capacity with the venue only being able to hold around 75 people.
Southern Water has now postponed the gathering until a larger venue can be booked.
The meeting had been due to be attended by Southern Water CEO Ian McAulay and the firm’s Director of Environment Toby Willison along with South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay and County Councillor Karen Constantine.
Areas that were to be covered included last year’s pollution incidents and storm overflows.
A Southern Water spokesperson said: ““There is clear public demand for a meeting and we want to listen to the views of our customers. There has been significant interest in attending a meeting – far in excess of the capacity of the original venue at St Peters especially bearing in mind the need for social distancing.
“We are working with Craig Mackinlay’s office and other stakeholders in the area to find a suitable venue. We’re sorry but this means the original date of January 13 is not possible. We hope to provide details of a new venue and date as soon as possible.”
Cllr Constantine has been asking for a meeting since October following combined sewer releases and failures at Southern Water pumping stations which led to warnings to stay out of the water in June and October.
She has requested a venue in Ramsgate with a representative panel. The councillor has also requested independent testing of Thanet coastal waters and the River Stour with the findings made public.
She said: “I’m speaking on behalf of residents who are beginning to feel that Southern Water are not taking their complaints and concerns seriously enough. Questions have been raised repeatedly and requests for water monitoring have been put to Southern Water several times. Frustration at the lack of progress is now building.
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.
In October warnings were issued for 14 beaches and bays and stayed in place for nine days at 13 sites and an extra two days at Joss Bay following a discharge from the Broadstairs pumping station.
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.
It has also been agreed to implement a number of action points previously drawn up during a meeting between Margate councillor Rob Yates, representatives of natural beauty business Haeckels and Walpole Bay Swimmers and Environment Agency senior officer Peter Ehmann.
Cllr Yates said there would be a bathing water task force and he revealed the Environment Agency is planning to test water quality in the Walpole Bay tidal pool directly for next year, rather than tests being carried out further to the west.
In November Southern Water said it was launching a task force with the aim to cut storm overflows by 80 per cent by 2030.