Council demands compensation after sewage spill closes local beaches

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Abigail Bracken

Thanet Council is demanding compensation after sewage dumped into the sea has closed nearby beaches for nearly a week, affecting the local environment and economy.

It happened after Southern Water says a lightning strike on Thursday (17 June) damaged its site in Margate.

It says 'heavily diluted wastewater was released via the emergency outfall' into Palm Bay and Margate Sands 'in order to protect local homes and properties from internal flooding.'

The beaches have been cut off to bathers since the incident while a clean-up is underway.

Margate Credit: ITV News Meridian

In a letter to Southern Water, the leader of the council, Councillor Ash Ashbee, says 'an act of God' was no excuse for the 'environmental disaster.'

She wrote: "You claim this occurred due to a lightning strike, however, given the repetitive failure of this plant for over a decade, I do not accept that an act of God is in any way an excuse for this latest environmental and financial disaster in our District.

"Surely your Company has an emergency protocol in place to mitigate against any such eventuality at what is a critical part of your infrastructure."

Thanet District Council is now demanding compensation for the cost of the continuing clean-up operation.

Six years ago, Southern Water was fined a record £2m for a similar incident.

Advice against bathing is in place at the following bays: 

  • Minnis Bay

  • West Bay

  • St Mildreds Bay

  • Westbrook

  • Margate Main Sands

  • Walpole Bay

  • Palm Bay

  • Foreness

  • Botany Bay

  • Kingsgate Bay

  • Joss Bay

Conservative MP for North Thanet, Sir Roger Gale, says it is 'absolutely devastating'

In a statement on its website, Southern Water said: "No pollution is acceptable to us or our customers and we apologise for the impact the latest incident has had on local residents, businesses and the environment"

"We are dedicated to protecting the environment and reducing pollution incidents is a top priority for us.

"We have invested £3.2billion across our region in the last six years to improve the capacity and efficiency of the wastewater network and will continue to do, with a  further £1.7billion committed for the next four years."

The water company says a compensation scheme for businesses is available and business owners affected by this incident can make a claim.