Southern Water has pledged to work closely together with Thanet District Council to understand and address the challenge of climate change and drainage issues in the district at a meeting held last night (Monday 13 September).
Ian McAulay, Southern Water’s Chief Executive and Dr Toby Willison, Director of Environment and Corporate Affairs, met with Cabinet members, led by Council Leader, Cllr Ash Ashbee, to update on progress to improve the long term resilience of the Foreness Point Pumping Station.
Ian told councillors that businesses have already received a total of £16,000 of financial support from Southern Water having experienced loss of income due to the lightning strike and heavy rainfall which affected Foreness Point pumping station and resulted in an emergency wastewater release in Margate. A number of other businesses also have claims for compensation being assessed currently.
The council has also agreed to accept £100,000 offered by Southern Water to ensure public funds are not diverted away from other important local initiatives and investment as a result of the costs incurred during the incident response and clean-up.
The emergency release was made to protect local homes and businesses from internal flooding during the storms.
Ian also committed a further £400k investment in a comprehensive drainage survey of the area, with planning already underway. This comprehensive audit will look at the whole drainage system, and will take into account pipes and networks owned by Southern Water, Thanet District Council and Kent County Council, as well as those in private ownership.
The survey, which is the first of its kind to take a holistic view of the whole network regardless of ownership, will help to build a clearer picture of where surface water run off comes from during heavy rainfall. Once completed, it will provide an evidence base to inform future investment in the infrastructure needed to separate surface water run-off from wastewater.
This long term infrastructure investment will reduce the risk to the environment from emergency releases in future and protect the interests of local residents and businesses.
An independent power review to identify ways to reduce the risk of the site being affected again by a power outage cause by a similar exceptional event is already underway by Southern Water.
This over £500k commitment is in addition to the £5.5 million already being spent on improving the site by 2025.
Ian McAulay, Southern Water’s CEO, said: “Yesterday’s meeting was hugely positive. We are pleased our offer to support the local community, local businesses and the environment has been accepted by Thanet District Council and that councillors fed back positively about our discussions. We recognise the expectations and opinions of society have significantly changed in recent years and that the emergency process, which is integral to the current system to protect homes and businesses from flooding, is one people feel very strongly about.
“This drainage survey signals the start of a closer working relationships which will benefit our customers, the environment and the local economy.”
Dr Toby Willison added: “It is good news that people who are passionate about the environment are becoming involved with causes such as water quality, and we urge them to continue to speak up and campaign to help make a difference and effect change that is needed to protect the coastline and environment of Kent which is so important to local residents and business.
“The impacts of climate change and population growth have increased this risk in recent years and there is a significant and growing demand from the public nationwide for politicians, water companies and others to take action. We believe our industry leading transparency and effective pollution reporting is vital to ensure people in Thanet and across our region are well-informed about water quality.”
Councillors are due to visit Foreness Point next month and the multi-agency Bathing Water Steering Group has been revived and will have its next meeting in November.
Southern Water is also discussing financial and practical support for local charities and campaign groups to help keep beaches in the district clean and litter-free.