Margate councillor becomes formal witness in investigation over Southern Water sewer outfall releases in 2021

Cllr Rob Yates

A Margate councillor has become a formal witness in an Environment Agency investigation into Southern Water releases of untreated sewage’ in Thanet last year.

The investigation follows two incidents, the first was a release of wastewater from the emergency outfall at Foreness Point in June 2021 which affected ten isle beaches. Southern Water said the release was due to a lightning strike at the wastewater pumping station.

The second was a failure at the Broadstairs pumping station in October 2021 resulting in advice against bathing or entering the area below the high water mark at 14 of Thanet’s beaches following an unscreened wastewater release.

The investigation being carried out by the Environment Agency includes the signing up of Margate councillor Rob Yates as a formal witness in any proceedings.

Cllr Yates has submitted Freedom of Information requests about operations at Southern Water’s Thanet facilities and been involved with demonstrations held last year.

He said: “As a Thanet District Councillor and resident of Margate I am pleased to be supporting the Environment Agency in their investigations into Southern Water here in Thanet.

“In 2021 I submitted an Environmental Information Request with Southern Water about the performance of their operations locally. In their response they admitted to having 23 non-compliant storm event releases happening at Margate Wastewater Pumping Station since 2019. This could have led to serious impacts across Thanet.

“This information, along with witness testimony from residents in Thanet, has now been formally submitted to help the Environment Agency with their investigations.

“That is all I can say at this time.”

Southern Water discharges affected Thanet beaches Photo John Horton

An Environment Agency spokesperson confirmed the investigation is ongoing and, on completion, a decision will be made  about what further action should be taken.

The spokesperson added: “The Environment Agency is continuing to investigate the release of untreated sewage in the Margate area during 2021, including on 17 June and 5 October.

“Once we have completed our investigations, we will decide on what further action is appropriate.

“As this is an ongoing investigation, we can’t comment any further at this time.

“We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. Water companies have a legal duty, to avoid pollution and must act quickly to reduce any damage that happens as a result of their activities.

“We encourage the public to report pollution incidents to us via our 24-hour Freephone emergency number 0800 80 70 60.”

Panel members at the Southern Water meeting Photo Ramsgate SOS

In April this year a public meeting in Ramsgate heard pledges from Southern Water chiefs of real time monitoring of bacteria in our coastal waters, a £300million investment in Kent and a Southern Water stakeholder group for Thanet.

Some 120 people attended the gathering at Royal Harbour Academy so that they could put their questions to then- Southern Water CEO Ian McAulay and Dr Toby Wilson, the water company’s chief of environment and sustainability.

The panel included Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee, county councillor Karen Constantine, Sally Harvey from the Environment Agency and was chaired by South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay.

Campaigners from SOS Ramsgate, who had been pushing for the meeting since last year, were among those attending.

In July of this year a Southern Water report included proposals to cut storm releases into the sea off Margate.

Southern Water’s Storm Overflow Task Force said the Margate Pathfinder report was the first step of a collaboration between residents, councils, and community groups to improve drainage, manage wastewater flows, and significantly reduce the use of storm overflows in the area.

Southern Water is now working alongside Kent County Council, Thanet District Council, and residents to improve drainage in the area and drive down the use of storm overflows.

Margate pumping station Photo Southern Water

The types of intervention identified in the report are a mix of innovative and traditional solutions such as removing and slowing the flow of rainwater in the network, making better use of the existing infrastructure, removing impermeable surfaces, creating sustainable drainage in parks, diverting rainwater to the environment, and investing in new assets.

Southern Water has also undertaken flow and manholes surveys. This information will be used to improve the network model for the Margate area.

There is also a programme to install some 300 level monitors in the Margate catchment. This will also give more ‘real-time’ data of water levels in the sewers.


  1. I have sent a letter of complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman ask for an investigation to be started into Ramsgate Town Council over Manston Airport, I want to know who holds the purse strings to the money that was raised towards a judicial review that RTC offered £10,000 of taxpayers money. No judicial review was held because the government withdrew that DCO and changed a point of law so that the new DCO is legally watertight.

  2. Ann, yes I have also sent a pre-action protocol letter to the same and to the community and local government minister. Enough is enough of councils and utilities firms doing as they please and expect Joe public to put up with it.

  3. Mr X, Ramsgate Town Council are NOT “Standing up for its people” they are a small minded clique who are trying to deny local families employment opportunities – we have family members who used to work at Manston Airport However since it was closed they travel to Gatwick airport 4 days a week and work 12 hour days plus travel time. When Manston Airport reopens their employer will be happy to transfer them back to Manston airport. They are Ramsgate “people”
    RTC has NOT had any consultations with the “ people” of Ramsgate whatsoever so they are NOT “ standing up” for them. As I said before RTC are just a small minded CLIQUE. Who are using the banner RTC I suggest unlawfully beyond their democratic remit. Let the court decide.

    • How do you know your family members will be taken on by the new company at manston ? I havent seen any jobs advertised for manston ?

      The fact that 164k was raised to fight manston by local people I would say alot of local people are against manston to raise that amount. It also make RTC offer of 10k small fry really.

      Not sure why you pro manston are hi jacking this thread ?

    • No conflict of interest there then? Now we know why you have lobbied so hard for it-not based on any sense of reality that an airport has never lasted there, not that there is still no public transport there & not on the air & noise pollution, just that your family wants to work there.

  4. You can fine them all you like, as us customers suffer with increased water bills to off set the fines, and the massive profits Southern Water makes, is passed on to its shareholders. The Environment Agency need to grow a pair and the justice system should not just fine the company but imprison their Chief Executive and the Director in charge of the pumping stations around Thanet. until this is done, they, Southern Water, won’t invest a penny in their broken infrastructure here in Thanet.

    • Fines don’t work-they just raise prices & sack staff, so the public pays for their criminal behaviour in different ways-less leaks fixed, less staff to answer calls & you pay more.

      We need some judges who are prepared to send these vermin bosses to prison. If you or I dumped hundred of litres of sewage into the sea that is where we would be sent. Yet they can dump billions-admit they have even done it when they didn’t need to, but just to save money & they are rewarded with a slap on the wrist & a golden handshake of many millions to get lost.

  5. What happened to the “Blue Flag beaches ” we used to be so proud of?
    I used to believe that we had beautiful, clean water and beaches. But it can’t have been true, because we now learn that the water companies have been pumping sewage into the sea all this time.
    Amid all the dead sea-life, something else is dying. The idea that privatisation is the answer to poorly supported public services. We were told that “private investment” would solve all the problems of the publicly-owned Water Boards, the Electricity and Gas Boards, the Post Office and the Railways.
    Well, we have had a few years of experience now, and we find the deep flaws in the privatisation experiment. For one thing, the problems have got much worse, not better. For another, the taxpayer is STILL subsidising the private companies that run our vital services even though the private investors are reaping huge rewards in profits and dividends.
    As for our tame politicians, there is no point in looking to them for answers. The Tories are still committed to the failed privatisation experiment, even though their own supporters agree that nationalisation of the energy companies ,if only temporarily, is necessary.
    And the “Opposition” Labour Party, faced with overwhelming public support for re-nationalisation of public services, shrink away at the thought and say “Not just yet, let’s wait a bit….”
    Britain is like a canoe ,heading for the top of the waterfall. The Tories are in the front, paddling hard for the abyss. Labour are in the back, ignoring the pleas of the passengers, more scared that the voters might not support a drastic change of direction than of the real danger right in front of them.

  6. The thing is about global warming is that it brings out the legal nitwits,who know precisely zilch about legal jurisprudence apart from some item written by another idiot on Facebook.
    Do us all favour Ann and Bill and let the experts do their work.
    RTC have nothing to worry about,but Southern water do

  7. As many on here know I’ve told you many times about things for example “a new announcement” about Manston Airport would be made soon, my comments were often met by the usual scoffs and poo-hoos from the uneducated. Well read this unbelievers. Manston Airport will be reopening so save your typing fingers / falsehood statements and breath, some big name investors/pension funds are on-side but don’t worry none of it is Russian money. Also I’m pleased to report that I am advised that indeed I do have “grounds for concern and legality of the past and current actions of RTC.”

  8. Anyone know where the Foreness Pumping Station has disappeared to on the Beachbuoy page of SW website? They’re no longer registering it as a potential leak sight, so we can’t monitor it any more. Criminal much?

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