Southern Water fined £200,000 for Margate sewage spill

Beach cleaners on a beach in Thanet Beaches in Thanet had to be closed during a second sewage spill in 2012

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A water company has been fined £200,000 after untreated sewage was discharged into the sea off Margate.

Southern Water pleaded guilty to breaching its Environmental Permit at Foreness Point pumping station.

The Environment Agency said defective pumps led to several sewage discharges between January and June 2011.

Southern Water apologised and said it was struggling to deal with the amount of water arriving at Foreness Point in stormy weather.

Canterbury Crown Court was told the company frequently failed to notify the Environment Agency or the local food authority of the sewage discharges into the sea.

One of the breaches was on Easter Sunday 2011, when sewage was discharged on to the beach.

Beaches closed

The Environment Agency said investigation into separate sewage leaks last year were still ongoing.

More than 20 beaches in Thanet had to be closed over the Queen's Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend from 4 until 12 June.

Green Party councillor Ian Driver was on a scrutiny panel of Thanet Council which looked into the 2012 pollution incidents.

He said the £200,000 fine was too low.

"Last year Southern Water made profits of £331m so a £200,000 fine is hardly a deterrent considering the damage they caused," he said.

"There is the obvious environmental damage and the risk to health - that's a very serious issue.

"There's also huge damage to the local economy. People stop coming because they don't think the beaches are safe, so local traders lose money."

New pumping station

Southern Water said the majority of beaches in the Margate area continued to meet Blue Flag and European quality standards.

Director Geoff Loader said the fine should be taken in context with the £1.7m the company had spent addressing "extremely complex" issues at the pumping station.

"We have done some short-term improvements and we have some more things to do at a cost of £500,000," he said.

"Ultimately we might need to build a new pumping station.

"We are drawing up plans but that will have to go through planning permission and so on."

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