UK & World News
Margate: Water Firm Fined For Sewage Discharge
A water company has been fined for allowing raw sewage to pour into the sea at a famous coastal resort several times over a six month period.
Southern Water has been ordered to pay £200,000 for allowing the untreated effluent to go into the sea off Margate, the Environment Agency (EA) said.
Defective pumps at the town's pumping station in Kent led to several discharges of untreated sewage between January and June 2011.
Canterbury Crown Court, which heard the case against Southern, was also told that the firm failed to inform the EA or the local food authority about the discharges.
Last month the company, which serves Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, pleaded guilty to breaching its strict environmental permit.
It also admitted causing avoidable releases of untreated sewage to enter the sea.
Following sentencing, Andy Stamp, the EA's environment officer, said: "We take these types of incidents very seriously and will do everything within our powers to safeguard the environment and people affected, and that includes bringing those who harm the environment to account for their actions."
Southern Water "unreservedly apologised" and said it had spent £1.7m addressing "complex engineering issues" at the pumping station which caused the problems.
Another £400,000 is earmarked and plans for another pumping station are being drawn up, the firm added.
It said it has supported the local tourist industry with a series of promotional projects.
Margate is regarded as one of the best sandy beaches in south east England. The town relies heavily on its tourist industry.
Southern Water director Geoff Loader said that, although the company had failed to operate within its environmental permit, Margate's beaches had continued to meet European quality standards.
He said: "Importantly, the majority of beaches in the Margate area continue to have water quality sufficient to meet the Blue Flag standards and all meet European standards.
"Therefore, although we have breached our permit, we have not caused any deterioration in the water quality of Margate's beaches and, overall, our current treatment system has delivered improvements leading to Blue Flag water quality.
"However, failures with our plant are not acceptable.
"We fully understand the importance of water quality to the reputation of Thanet as a leading tourist resort in the UK and we will always work to protect and enhance that."