Six Thanet beaches affected by Southern Water sewer outfall releases

Warnings on Southern Water's Beachbuoy map

Sewer water releases from two outfall pipes in Margate has affected six Thanet beaches.

Southern Water’s Beachbuoy website shows warnings over water quality at Margate, Fulsam Rock, Walpole Bay, Botany Bay, Joss Bay and Stone Bay.

‘Storm release’ from Margate outfall two pipe lasted for four hours and 19 minutes, ending a 2.41am today. The release from Margate’s outfall one pipe lasted three hours and 34 minutes, ending at 1.59am.

Storm overflow (combined sewer outfalls) releases occur due to the predominantly combined sewer system, where both wastewater and rain runoff enter the same network. During heavy downpours, rain overloads the system. To avoid homes, businesses, schools and roads flooding, excess water is released into the sea. Releases are around 95% rainwater but have not been fully screened.

Warning signs at Thanet beaches in 2021 Photo Rebecca Douglas

During 2021 combined sewer releases and failures at Southern Water pumping stations led to warnings to stay out of the water in June and October.

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

In October 2021 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.

Last November Kent Wildlife Trust volunteers were forced to cancel a wildlife survey after Southern Water waste releases into the coast at Margate and Fulsam Rock. Releases were made from both the short and long sea outfall pipes and pumped into the ocean off the coast of Margate following heavy rainfall.

In February this year more than 100 people attended a meeting in Ramsgate with guest speakers former punk band frontman turned environmentalist Feargal Sharkey and Green Party peer Jenny Jones to discuss the sewer discharge issues.

Southern Water

Southern Water says it is continuing work to reduce outfalls and have three schemes in Kent focused on slowing the flow of water entering the sewers during heavy rain. Additionally a number of schools across the region including several in Kent now have SUDS (sustainable urban drainage systems) to help with this.

A spokesperson for Southern Water said: “Heavy rain can overwhelm the combined sewer and drainage system which exists in many parts of our region. To protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding has led to some overflows  – releasing excess water into the sea. These discharges are heavily diluted, typically being up to 95 per cent rainwater.

“We are dedicated to significantly reducing storm overflows and are running innovative pilot schemes across the region to reduce the amount of rainfall entering our combined sewers by 2030.”

Southern Water says it is investing £2bn between 2020 and 2025, with most investment going to improving  wastewater assets and environmental performance.


  1. This is a national disgrace, the government need to take control, greedy shareholders have been given priority for too many years. Time to take back control!!

  2. No need to worry.
    The government is instructing the water companies to clean up their act.
    By 2050
    At our expense.

  3. Announced or unannounced i still wouldn’t swim in that. Southern Water are criminally responsible again, again. When they get fined we get nothing despite us paying for water treatment.Nothing charges if nothing changes.WELCOME TO MARGATE!!!

    • Sorry Ben Dover, if you watch the news,it is happening on most beaches and rivers ,and lakes all over the country, it is not consigned only to, Margate/ Thanet, re nationalise,without,compensation ,to the share holders ,at once

    • “When they get fined we get nothing despite us paying for water treatment.Nothing charges if nothing changes.WELCOME TO MARGATE!!!”

      This is a national issue, Ben. Not one localised to Margate. Every single waterway in the country is contaminated with sewage and “forever” chemicals like PFOS and PFOA, alongside microplastics.

      These substances cannot be cleaned from the water at treatment centres…

  4. I would be absolutely embarrassed to admit to working for Southwrn Water, not that I would even think about applying for a job with this shower of sh!t.

  5. Lots of things cause this now.

    The water companies

    To many new buildings

    To many homeowners paving over their gardens.

  6. Unlike individuals,this is a company and,even if they get fined,it does not affect any individual in that company.If individuals pollute,they will be prosecuted.
    Absolutely no personal accountability,for companies not to continue polluting our waters.

  7. This makes me laugh.
    At the height of Thanet’s popularity as a holiday resort the sewer pipes entered straight into the sea from Foreness Point.
    30 years ago, Southern Water built an outfall pipe a mile and a half long. So subsequently instead of one isolated little used beach being affected, all the northern and eastern Thanet beaches are affected when the tide washes the wastewater back!🤣

    • But 30 years ago we weren’t told about it!!In fact, in the years since, we were fed guff about “Blue Flag ” beaches. It was all getting better, they said.
      It took a lot of digging by dedicated people (you know, those horrible “activists” we are told are so destructive to our way of life) to get the truth out into the open.
      There is, no doubt, a lot more dirt to come out.
      But let’s not relax. The current governing Party is totally committed to private ownership of public utilities and the “replacement” governing Party, Labour, is in the process of bottling out of any policy that could be attacked by the Daily Mail. So don’t expect much help there.
      Looks like we will all have to become “horrible activists”!

      • I agree.
        I remember FotE protesting at Foreness regularly 30 years ago pointing out the stupidity of spending £millions on a longer pipe. Their prophecies have come true in spades.
        The water companies should be changing their systems completely. Cyprus is a good example. Recycle domestic waste water and sewage to irrigate fields rather than wasting a valuable organic resource.

  8. I haven’t noticed anyone point out so far that it was announced this week that the company who just bankrupted Thames Water are about to take over Southern Water so do expect things to get any better.

    • David Riddle they are not about to take over Southern Water. Macquarie already took control of it back in 2021.

      • Jj agreed 2021 unless they have learned there lesson not much chance they will do the same again pay bid Dividends to it’s shareholders that’s why thames water are in such a mess.

        • From memory Big Chris, all water companies are in debt, Thames Water is the worst at some £15 billion I believe! They are borrowing money NOT to invest in the mainly Victorian sewage treatment works, but to pay dividends to shareholders! These shareholders are mostly foreign, Chinese, French, Canadian! Welcome to GB, slowly descending into 3rd world status! No doubt our 2 chocolate tea pot Thanet MP’s are in agreement this is acceptable!

  9. People power can rule Refuse to pay the company any money. When and if it they take the millions of customers to court, all the people have to say is, They have promised a solution for many years, but still not produced it while their directors and shareholders are getting paid and dividends for a sub standard service.

    • Paul mate, don’t ever start a law firm now, would you.

      Your advice could see people put into arrears and ultimately end up with a hefty CCJ.

  10. Traders must be infuriated by the business they lose while Southern Water continue to pollute. Are any of the main political parties pushing for renationalisation? Southern Water don’t have a problem awarding themselves bonuses etc but those of us who pay them are being short changed

  11. “both wastewater and rain runoff enter the same network”
    There’s your problem then – Answer: just divert the rainwater away temporarily directly into the sea away from the wastewater/sewer network so when it storms any overflow contains no sh!t, toilet paper or detergents only pure rainwater. Any rainwater overflow could be run through carbon filters easily to take out any toxins before in enters the sea.

    • “Any rainwater overflow could be run through carbon filters easily to take out any toxins before in enters the sea.”

      Carbon filters don’t clean PFOA, PFAS or microplastics.

      How does one divert rainwater, away from sewers, given the rain gutters, are connected to the sewers?

      A whole new piping system, underneath the entirity of Thanet, that runs concurrently alongside the existing network?

      Doy ou have any idea how much that would cost(billions), how long it would take (4-5 decades) and if its even feasible (it isn’t)?

      • We live on the coast there’s got to be a way? There is no way rainwater should go into the sewer system that’s why soakaways were invented – why can’t they build a few hundred of those around Thanet -under roads, under parks or carparks and at least divert 50% of it away from the wastewater/sewer system?

        “A whole new piping system, underneath the entirety of Thanet, that runs concurrently alongside the existing network?”
        Nah just intercept it from roadside drains before it enters the sewer system and divert into the giant underground soakaways like they do on motorways.

        Oh no I forgot they all want to keep the profits and just pay the little fines they get every year lol

    • I remember discussing dual pipe sewer installation for new developments 50 years ago at college, but it never happened, mainly because it could not be done!

      • All new developments now days should and I think they have too, divert rainwater away from the sewer by building soakaways – so it could be done – even diverting 25% into soakaways would take the stress off the pumping stations.

  12. No it’s all okay…..they’ve all got Blue Badges awarded, clean as a whistle…clean as a clean thing….no news here…..its all clean …keep moving people…..

  13. The system must be in a dire mess as it didn’t rain that much yesterday compared to last week southern water are having a laugh at our expenses while they think we believe them about rainfall I am rather expecting it’s incompetence as the reason for release of waste.

  14. Southern Water are a legally protected profit-making monopoly supplying a good that you’ll die without, and in supplying that good they show according to Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson, “a shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment, for precious and delicate ecosystems and coastlines, [and] for human health” it is a company that the environment agency described as being engaged in “very serious widespread criminality”.
    Pretty bad so far, but it gets significantly worse when you discover the audacious amount of profit that the company pockets from us. The latest financial report shows a revenue of £784 million and a profit of £139 million and that’s AFTER a fine of £90 million!

  15. I agree with most of your comments, I use to walk the beach at Ramsgate in the 1960s,looking for bait for sea fishing, there was this enormous iron pipe discharging nasty sewage, condoms, pluss other nasty thing’s, nothing has changed, it still goes on, hidden under concrete pier, which was built over people keep fighting against the company, who are discharging this poison.

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