Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Southern Water Cleans up Sewage Spill with innocuous Statement

Reading reports over the weekend about Southern Water's disastrous release of untreated sewage, it proved difficult to establish the scale of the environmental catastrophe, watching tonight's news, it seems nobody is any wiser as too how long local beaches will be closed.

As you might expect Thanet Council has reacted with minimal information, visitors have been in many cases unaware, such is the lack of signage . Still this incident is not of their making so perhaps the discreet notices highlighted on the local evening news are as much we can expect.

Southern Water's response however is truly lamentable, fishing around for info, I came across this on Sunday, still available today Wednesday.
As you see the big news for Southern Water is this "Essential work to repair to approx 1.2Km of ageing sewer pipes in Bramber and Upper Beeding" something that, in any other well run organisation, might well fall under the classification of normal maintenance.

I wonder why Southern Water appear so ignorant of the incident itself, and also unable or unwilling to add to our knowledge by giving us details of the damage done by the humongous splodge of untreated sewage, presumably now washing up on our beaches.

Still delving deep into the Southern Water website, I eventually trawled up this rather innocuous and if I may say rather useless statement.

Margate beaches, June 2

Margate update - June, 2012

Southern Water continues to work with Thanet District Council to clean up beaches in the Margate area, following problems at Margate pumping station during heavy rain.

The council, as beach manager, decided to close the beach to bathers while the clean-up operation continues.

We're sorry for this incident and apologise to all those affected.

Our work to clean-up the stretch of beach continues and teams have been working 24/7 to resolve the issues at the pumping station.

We'd like to assure customers this is a priority for us.

June, 2012

Such a priority that no useful information is available on the companies website.

Maybe a more useful, statement would answer, these questions, how bad is the environmental damage? an estimate of the damage to the local economy? what if anything do they intend, to do, to stop a recurrence? who within Southern Water do local traders need to apply to for compensation of loss of earnings? or given the lack of information from both Southern Water and Thanet District Council what could be done to improve warnings, to visitors to the beach current dangerous contamination.

The days when bland meaningless press releases were good enough, have long gone, Southern Water are a monopoly supplier of water services,  we have no choice in how much we pay for water services, so come on let's see some meaningful information and advice, I'm sure you have the money to pay for something better.

Given the inconvenience and the potential damage to our coast, leisure activities and economy wouldn't it be nice if either the Chairman of Southern Water Colin Hood, or Chief Exec Matthew Wright got involved and promised to sort this business out.


  1. If they are fined or forced to pay compensation it will be US who pay through ever increasing charges. Surely the only way to prevent similar events is to make the board of directors personally responsible ... to remove all and any bonuses for each clear breach of health and safety ... to fine them personally from their salaries ... to give them a 'three and your out' condition of employment.
    As a seafarer I would have lost my ticket and thus my income if a major cock up occured on my watch. Airline pilots are personally accountable for their command. Why should these water officials be any different.

  2. Good article Tony. This issue must be kept current.
    Fear of litigation is probably the reason no proper info is forthcoming.
    This "too much rain" excuse is wearing very thin. Use some of your profits to adapt systems to cope with more rain then is the obvious response.

    Col: I couldn't agree more.

  3. This is the email I have sent them via their web page.
    "What is going on at Foreness?
    How long before it is cleared up?
    What are you doing to clear it up?
    What are the contact details for your Chief Exec?"

    Others might want to do the same. :)

  4. Shouldn't it have read "we are in collusion with instead of
    Southern Water continues to work with Thanet District Council "

  5. Col. Spot on, and ships have to be built with back up to prevent the accidental discharge of raw sewage, and these systems are independently checked by Government officials. So why can't the water companies have a similar system?
    If it rains hard over Leamington Spa, is Warwickshire suddenly befouled with ankle-deep sewage? No, of course not. Because Warwickshire, without the benefit of a convenient sea nearby, has had to invest in systems that can cope properly.
    Foul waste discharge into the sea is illegal for ships so why are water companies allowed to do it?
    Big company directors are seemingly immune from the goings-on in their companies. I agree with Col that they should be personally liable; hit them where it hurts, in their pockets.

    1. Absolutely no need to worry, Tim, because Ian Driver is on the case (see Thanet Press Releases) and he is demanding action. That should sort it out once and for all and, to quote Michael, swimming amongst raw sewage will become a thing of the past.

      How great it must be to have such super powers and the unique ability to solve everything from the Broadway Practice to the QEQM A & E facilities to raw sewage all at once. That from somedone who claims to be an atheist and so has no divine connections.

    2. Never one to miss an opportunity for political rhetoric are you. Even in the most inappropriate circumstances.

  6. I really like the use of the word "clean up". The only clean up going on at present is dispersal by the current spring tides and the strong variable winds. Once the bacterial count is lowered to a safe standard the beaches will be "open". There is very little southern water can do except making sure the problem does not happen again. The trouble is it probably will but we will never notice it because the rainfall we are experiencing at present is normaly associated with wintery weather and how many people are on the beach in the winter bearing in mind there are no bathers.

  7. I agree with everyone above - and was surprised the pipe out to sea is only 1 mile long. Surely it should be 10 miles or more or even no sea dumping?

  8. Tony. Why should it happen again? Answer my Leamington Spa conundrum above and everyone stop accepting this so-called inevitability.

  9. Southern Water, 2010 - 2011, £192 Million in profit, plus a nice fat bonus for the boss. Yet still, we have hose pipe bans, high bills, water leaks and now sewerage contaminating our beaches, just as summer approaches!
    Southern Water admitted years ago, there are outfalls that are not even monitored!
    Profit is all they care about, typical of any 'business'.