Response to protest in Margate

We take all concerns raised with us about the performance of our network very seriously. Anyone attending this event can be reassured we hear their concerns and are working hard to improve our performance, with our customers and the environment at the heart of all we do.

Bathing waters are the cleanest since Environment Agency (EA) testing records began. Of the 83 beaches in Southern Water’s area, 62 are rated good or excellent and none are below acceptable standards. We are spending £2 billion on our infrastructure and the environment, to serve our customers, the environment and boost local economies around our 700 miles of coastline.

Reports about E Coli levels based on unofficial testing can undermine peoples’ confidence in official, independent testing and reporting. The EA website reports on the levels of E Coli in bathing waters and has clear parameters in place for safety.  E Coli is a very large family of bacteria which occurs frequently in sea water. Very few strains are harmful to humans.

E Coli in sea water can be due to seagull and all bird droppings, dog waste, agricultural run-off, and litter from beaches. Wastewater can also enter the water via shipping vessels and leisure boats. Even bathing water samples taken and rated excellent through the Environment Agency’s independent bathing water testing programme will contain levels of E Coli, because it comes from a wide variety of sources.

Storm releases during intense periods of rainfall are made through long sea outfalls usually around 2km out to sea and are not raw sewage. They are often more than 95% rainwater. Storm releases operate to protect customers’ homes, schools, hospitals and businesses from flooding and they are tightly regulated by the EA.

We are working towards reducing our reliance on storm releases as quickly as possible. There are huge challenges to overcome from  climate change, which we know is going to increase the frequency of intense rainfall events. The population of our region will have increased by 15% in the next 25 years.

We are pioneering a new approach, building more storm tank capacity where it will have an impact, and prioritising partnership working to prevent rain from reaching our systems through sustainable drainage, water gardens and major natural capital solutions such as enhanced and expanded wetlands.

Our industry-leading pollution reporting and online storm water release portal, Beachbuoy, is are evidence of our commitment to openness and transparency. We accept and support the public’s call for these practices to change and we are working towards this common goal in partnership with our whole sector, government and a broad range of national and local partners. We are determined to reduce pollutions by more than 50% by 2025. 

We invite those involved with the protest to meet with us to hear about our work, our investment and our commitment to improve service to our customers and discuss ways to work together to achieve a goal we share, to protect the environment.