Unverified sewer outfall releases at Thanet beaches and pollution risk issued by Environment Agency for Viking Bay

The releases are currently unverified

UPDATE: Viking Bay, Stone Bay and the Broadstairs outfall pipe are confirmed releases. The rest are listed as ‘not genuine.’

Unverified wastewater releases have been flagged for a number of Thanet beaches on Southern Water’s beach buoy site.

The overflow releases, that may impact water quality, are flagged for West Bay, St Mildred’s Bay, Westbrook, Margate, Fulsam Rock, Walpole Bay, Stone Bay and Viking Bay. A release from the Broadstairs outfall pipe is also recorded but not yet verified.

Further along the coast a release has been confirmed at Herne Bay.

The releases are also listed by Surfers Against Sewage.

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.

The Environment Agency has also issued advice against swimming at Viking Bay for the fifth time in two months.

The Environment Agency makes daily pollution risk forecasts and will issue the warning against bathing in the sea when water quality is forecast to reduce. This can be based on factors such as heavy rainfall or strong winds.

Contamination can come from a range of sources including surface water outfall, run off from roofs, roads, driveways and pavements and other debris.

Rain, tide, wind, sunlight and seasonality can affect the levels of bacteria that get washed into the sea from livestock, sewage and urban drainage via rivers and streams and how they disperse.

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

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 2021 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.

Southern Water

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 says it is continuing work to reduce outfalls and has 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.

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

Find the Beach Buoy map here


  1. Dumping raw sewage laced with pathogens; drugs and heavy metals is ILLEGAL. Tories won’t sue. But, if everybody gave just £1 to a law firm like Leigh Day then perhaps this wanton destruction of UK wildlife habitats and peoples amenity will cease. UK water needs to not be owned by foreign agencies, who’s only interest is making profit-at our expense.

    • No it’s not.
      The water companies are allowed to discharge untreated sewage into rivers and the sea in exceptional circumstances..
      The trouble is, every time it rains is now treated as an exceptional circumstance.

      • So, water cos are allowed, or not? EXCEPTIONAL circumstances. But, only exceptionally. Otherwise it’s wanton vandalism and unlawful.

  2. The more they build in thanet and the more people that keep coming to thanet the more it will happen and get worse .

    • It’s happening all over the country, not just Thanet
      Contributory factors are climate change leading to more frequent and heavier downpours, coupled with people concreting over their front gardens.

  3. Until Southern Water put in the infrastructure to cope with the additional new builds and predicted new builds. no more should be built. this is happening on a weekly occasion, Business that rely on footfall to the beaches are suffering losses, residents are unable to use the beaches and tourists are staying away, all because of one companies short comings and lack of investment from its vast amounts of profits.
    This is nothing short of corporate vandalism, the board of Southern Water should be jailed for this weekly environmental disaster.

    • They’ve had 30 years to insist upon passivhaus standards of grey water separation and rainwater harvesting, permeable hard surfaces, etc, when they’re consulted as ‘experts’ on planning issues (experts? Huh!). Where have they been? Lobbying for lighter regulation and welcoming all those new customers (who have no choice) with open arms. As you say, prison might have some impact, nothing else will.

  4. Southern Water are crooks, plain and simple. Their licence allows release ‘in exceptional circumstances’. Heavy rain is not an exceptional circumstance,so they are breaking the terms of their licence and open to a criminal prosecution, but this supine government does nothing. SW also have surge tanks that are supposed to hold overload, and should then be emptied during dry times. However that costs money, so the tanks tend to be full even when there’s no rain.
    Given their monoply status the only influence users have is to refuse to pay the sewerage component of their water bill, on the grounds that they are not fulfilling their contractual obligations. They will threaten baliffs but while you are in dispute they can’t do anything. Just keep telling them you won’t pay for a service that they have not supplied. And vote out this appalling government at the next election. Labour might not be much better, but they can’t be any worse.

  5. It’s about time this lot were given prison sentences for their crimes against the environment. That would stop it soon enough. So long as the fines are affordable, they will not care and they will not stop doing it. They are an absolute disgrace.

  6. This together with the stench of rotting seaweed is going to affect tourism, businesses and our health. It is about time that someone is goingt to measure the gasses coming from both, which we all breathe in and which will lead to an adverse response. Were I live, 10 minutes walk from the sea we can smell the stench of sewage and sea weed. It does not invite us to go for a walk along the beach, let alone go into the sea. Instead of giving Southern water a fine they should be forced to use those moneys to clear up and prevent. And thanet Council should clear up more beaches than just Margate Main Sands

    • Simone,

      Ask @soswhitstable about the “potential” effect on business.Whitstable shellfish co were world-renowned for their oysters and cockles. Not any more-they have to buy them in from France!!! get the irony?

  7. An interesting development. Feargal Sharkey whth whom I have utmost respect, reports that Jonathan Jones letter in the Times, instigated a Small Claims Court claiming loss of amenity due to sewage pollution on a beach that he could not then swim in. The Water co in question settled out of court for £550. The cost of proceedings only £50.

    This is an interesting development. However, I would prefer to see the water co bosses who are on £multi millions and the foreign-owned Private Equity companies face imprisonment and/or fines to remediate the damafge to business and the natural environment. There are over 20 million people signed up to various environmental groups including RSPB, RSPCA who are upset at environemental change. If each one could put £1 towards the legal battle to save opur seasides and rivers, then bankrupting and seizing the assets of one water co will help the others focus on their obligations. Aka S94 of the Water Industries Act 1991.

  8. So, when it rains there is to much water and Southern Water need to get rid of it, Right. But when there is no rain they say there is a water shortage, and put the cost of water up. It seems to me all about Southen Water doing what the hell they like and sod the paying customers.

    • Exactly. Criminal water cos across UK have stripped all our “rates” and syphoned it off-shore. Tories flogged off out utilities, so now we face not only unfettered increases in charges; we face raw sewage laced with chemicals; drugs and all manner of pathogens. Including cholera; typhoid; polio. Even Weil’s disease. Soime of the pathogens are viable for years. OK, longshore drift will eventually move the cocktail somewhere else along UK waters. So the next town cops it. Heard of PFAs, those “forever chemicals”. Well, water cos don’t “routinely” test and/or clean them out of our tap water. PFAs are persistent-they hand around for decades, maybe centuries. Soime are carcenogenic. Give Leigh-Day lawyers only £1 each citizen and well have a monumental battle. Remember it’s against the law to protest. Well, it ain’t against the law to sue.

  9. But will Labour re nationalise them. I think not. I can imagine most of the politicians have shares in ‘privatised’ companys.

  10. Is this why Margate seafront smelled so bad today? I thought it was just seaweed but did smell more like sewage.

    • It was the seaweed.
      When there’s a sewage release, the amount of actual faecal matter and so on is very small in comparison with the huge volume of rainwater being discharged.
      But I’d still rather not swim in it.

  11. The Government are too weak to act or do not want to act. They do nothing to stop the excess people invading the Country either. They all have to live somewhere which is why there is a building boom going on everywhere. They do not know how to run this Country. Everyone can moan but who is getting up and doing anything about it?
    They will not accept a government like ours in Europe where they are held to account for anything and everything that is wrong and they have to make it right quickly too. Nothing takes years to organise like here in the UK. No crap ends up polluting the sea and coasts of Europe, just here in crappy Britain. Things just get worse and worse while corporations made private rip us off. Most are owned by foreign companies now.

    • Not quite true.
      Here’s a bit about the Med:
      “The Mediterranean Sea is completely enclosed, apart from the 14km-wide Strait of Gibraltar and the 200m-wide Suez Canal, so water cycles very slowly and pollutants tend to accumulate. One third of the world’s shipping passes through the Mediterranean and between them, ships discharge between 100,000 and 150,000 tonnes of crude oil each year. Coastal discharges from industry and cities also result in high concentrations of mercury, cadmium, zinc, lead and untreated sewage”

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