Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Thanet Beaches and the sewage leak


Thanet Beaches and the sewage leak

This will be the third year running that I have tried to sort out something sensible to resolve this issue, and I should make it quite clear that that problem isn’t so much a pollution issue as a communication issue.

There is no way that pollution incidences can be avoided, it just isn’t possible because we have far too many people living in the world today, there is no way of reverting to a pre industrial society.

In this particular area of pollution i.e. the contamination of our beaches with sewage, the problem isn’t just a Thanet one, but applies pretty much everywhere in the world where there is a fairly high population living close to the sea.

What happens is that the sewage and the rainwater in fact everything that goes down the drain has to be processed and then discharged into the sea and periodically something goes wrong. 

We now know that the sewage leak started last Wednesday and indeed last Thursday I took my family to Westbrook beach where my children swam in the sea. The problem for me is not that the sewage leaked into the sea but that the council didn’t issue any warning until the following Monday and still seem to failing to fly red flags put precautionary notices and beach entrances.

My guess is that this behaviour will once again result in the withdrawal of most of our blue flags and the resultant damage to the local economy.

I tried to sort this one out last year when Thanet lost most of its blue flags, this link takes you to my correspondence with the council’s Commercial Services Manager http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/thanet-blue-flags-some-thoughts-from.html

I also made as much fuss as seemed reasonable during the 2010 pollution incident http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/blue-flags-summer-sewage-sand-and.html


I think the main difficulty here is that the council and councillors have for years gone down the road of covering pollution issues up rather than trying to look for solutions, here is an example of what I mean from Simon Moores on Thanet Life http://birchington.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/interesting-times.html don’t get me wrong here I am not singling out Simon over this issue, rather the reverse as at least he publishes his views on the internet where we can all read them.

But the thread there does I hope illustrate what I am talking about and were proper measures set up to deal with this problem last year or the year before, swimming around in sewage would be a thing of the past.

Simon has obviously revised his position on this issue as he has posted about the information and communication problems today see http://birchington.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/closed.html   

The picture above is a watercolour of Margate Lighthouse viewed from Westbrook, sorry about the splodgey bits, watercolour painting while supervising ones children on the beach is not an exact art.   

I will ramble on if I get time.  

42 comments:

  1. Oh how deviously clever we are, Michael. Having started off to explain that pollution by sewage is a worlwide problem and unavoidable sometimes, thus to exonerate the present Labour council, you then go on to demonstrate how it would be a thing of the past if the previous, you guessed it, Tory council had done something about it.

    Keep on like this and you will be in the House of Lords when the next Labour government takes office.

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    1. Tom, you seem to be trying to make a party political issue out of this issue, well last time we had this sort of pollution incident I emailed the appropriate cabinet members, made the appropriate customer feedback, engaged in a long and for me rather tedious dialogue with council officers and eventually made the following recommendations that would make the council compliant with blue flag criteria, most especially criterion 28

      1 To have a proper system of communication with Southern Water that results in action being taken in the event of an emergency discharge.

      2 To engage in a series of post discharge tests to ascertain how long after a discharge the signage needs to be in place.

      3 To contact Surfers against sewage explaining that a proper system has been put in place.

      4 To contact the EA and insure that their testing takes into account emergency discharges.

      5 To explain the improved system to the people running the blue flag scheme.

      Perhaps as you see this as a party political issue you would like to do all this, this time around.

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    2. Michael, simply read through your own post again and then tell me who is trying to make it political. "If proper measures had been set up (back in Tory days) swimming around sewage would be a thing of the past," your quote, not mine. That, after saying that these things are bound to happen from time to time. You cannot have it both ways. Either such incidents are bound to happen or there are measurtes that could be taken to prevent them. One or the other, not both.

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    3. Tom the (back in Tory days) are your words not mine and although I only took an interest in this issue when I learned that the South East Region Beach Lifeguard Championships were held at Ramsgate main Sands, immediately after a major sewage discharge adjacent to the sands.

      I would guess the communicatin problem predates the previous Conservative administration.

      I think the point you have missed is that yes these incidents are bound to happen, and will continue to happen, but what is not supposed to happen is allowing people to swim in raw untreated sewage, because the system isn’t in place to immediately place signage to on the beaches to tell people not to swim in the sea.

      You may remember the film Jaws, man eating sharks occasionally turn up at bathing beaches, the fault is not telling people to get out of the sea when they do.

      I take it from your comment that you are not interested in taking up the issue with the council to try and prevent people from swimming around in raw sewage next time we have an emergency discharge.

      I also take it that you are not interested in persuading them to introduce measures that would make Thanet blue flag compliant, so I will do that yet again and leave you to the party political implications.

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    4. Michael, I do appreciate that you do a valuable service in chasing up answers and trying to ensure the council and it's officers do what they are supposed to, but please do not assume others of us are unwilling or do nothing. I am regularly writing to ward councillors, our local MP and to the three party leaders. Sometimes I write to the press. Not sure any of it does any good, but we try.

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  2. Read what Michael has written Tom and not what you think he has written. He stated at the beginning that this is a communications problem. The lunch time news today highlighted this with lack of the public being informed and even children were shown in the sea. Southern Water seem to be at fault in the first place for a delay in communication but then TDC do not seem to have procedures in place. You cant blame the present TDC lot for this but the previous lot for taking no notice of how the blue flags status can be safeguarded. Maybe the present lot will get the communications sorted.

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    1. Well they haven't this time.

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  3. Agree with 4:20 why doesn't Tom write his own party blog instead of trolling across all the blogs? Whether it's worth reading is another matter.

    On the sewage, sackings are required. Nothing worse than polluting Blue Flag beaches or the Manston aquifer by a water company (South East and Southern Water?) and Environment Agency. TDC either cover it up or stand idly by. The senior civil servants are paid six figure salaries ands lavisah pensions that should be cut for failure now.

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    1. Anon, I do not write my own blog for I have neither the time or the expertise, but if people like you and I did not write comments, there would be no point in Michael or anyone else setting up a blogsite either. It would also be pretty dull debating if we all agreed with each other. I agree with you that heads should roll at Southern Water, but I am not sure where the civil servants fit in the picture. Southern Water is a privately owned, not public, company.

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    2. Tory rah-rah is best suited to your own blog Tom rather than stifling debate with dull party waffle. Southern Water privately owned?

      Of course not, it's a quasi-public monopoly and and heavily regulated by Parliament along with subsidies, grants etc.

      The Environment Agency and TDC are civil servants - and also a public monopoly. We're agreed on sackings though - how does this happen if it's in the party interest to keep quiet?

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    3. Does your ignorance know no bounds. Southern Water is a private company. TDC is made up of elected representatives and employed local government officers, not civil servants.

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    4. you're a quibbler Tom - what exactly is the difference between civil servants and local government officers? Southern Water is a private company like the Post Office. Except the latter has competitors. How do we change our water supplier to a competitor then?

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    5. There's the rub, we can't. Don't get me wrong, I am not happy with the water situation and, as far as Southern is concerned, it has changed hands several times, seemingly to no avail. You are right, though privately owned, it is not competitive, we cannot change suppliers or refuse to pay our water rates when we get bad service. Add the fact that the regulator seems toothless and it is a pretty sorry state of affairs.

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    6. We can always refuse to pay our water rates. Usually the water companies are compared to each other for evaluation of prices, leaks etc. Southern are particularly bad. With an incompetent council there's little pressure to improve just passing the buck on drain cleaning etc.

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    7. Yes, but the law is on their side and we finish up facing a County Court Judgement. Write to your MP, I have, and if enough of us do then they might just start to take notice.

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    8. not at all Tom, if they don't provide a service then the law is on your/our side. With a CCJ against them. And a payment strike is similarly legal.

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    9. Well you give it a go and I will wait and see what happens.

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    10. That's right tom, criticise and whinge and then let someone else do it.

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    11. Too right, my friend, why bother when somebody else will. Actually though I suspect it is all talk on your part. I am off for a G & T.

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    12. I thought the empty talk was you Tom by your own admission. There seems no point to you and certainly nothing worth considering.

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    13. Whatever makes you happy. Can't say you have filled me with either awe or confidemnce.

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    14. The difference Tom is you duck the issues such as the removed monitors or aquifer at Manston, quibble over irrelevances such as civil servants or local government officers, and then go silent or insulting or dismissive when you're shown to be wrong as with Southern Water a public company.

      At least with your auto-Tory propaganda we can ignore your trolling although you're hardly improving the reputation of the local party.

      Almost everything you say is either plain wrong or simply without basis.

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    15. Fairy nuff, yawn zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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    16. there you go again Tom, nothing to say on the monitors or aquifer or beach pollution just childish evasion now

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    17. Right, Anon, just what do you want me to say. (1) Yes, the monitors should not have been removed, but there is nothing I can do about it. Try writing to someone who can. (2) The aquifer is not that simple. An airfield has been there for nearly a century and we are all still alive. Perhaps some of the alternative proposals like housing or industrial estates might be worse. Certainly needs to be carefully considered. (3) Pollution should be avoided, but, unfortunately, in our modern over populated, high tech world we seem incapable of getting by without disasters. From Thor, to our beaches to potential contamination at Pfizer.

      I am not uncaring and, it may surprise you to know, that I regularly lobby MPs and government departments on a range of issues. However, what is uttely pointless and childish is you keep coming back at me about ducking issues. It gets us precisely nowhere.

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    18. 1. Now you come full circle and agree the monitors were removed and shouldn't have been. And now wash your hands of it. Shouldn't you raise this with your Tory party and the Police? And call for the monitors to be reinstated with the missing fines - planes are still flying. Not one public statement on the monitors from the councillors - and Infratil maintain they are monitoring.

      2. What's complex about an aquifer under the airport? It's unbelievably stupid and a public health hazard isn't it? I agree housing would be almost as bad that's why Manston will return to a field.

      3. Pollution a bad thing? I agree. But Manston and Thor were not accidents but deliberate and repeated pollution. Despite the safety requirements.

      With Manston it was a callous and illegal attempt to allow the airport to expand by removing the safety measures. Thor is much the same as our politicians and civil servants attempt to cover over their roles in these disasters.

      Your idea of a debate is pro-tory and pro-airport regardless of the facts. And then claim it's all a problem and nothing can be done. I'm not sure there's any point to you except an opinion to invariably disregard.

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    19. As you wish, Anon. What you are really saying is that unless I agree totally with you I am in the wrong. This debate also has nothing to do with politics. There are supporters of all parties on various sides of the Manston debate and not all Labour ones are anti-nights flights anymore than all Tory supporters are pro. You just like to see it that way.

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    20. These are fairly serious points Tom but you don't have a view now, after your facts have been confired as incorrect?

      And after trotting out every proTory argument you now say it's actually not party politics? I agree with you but its the opposite of what you usually say.

      One point: why is an aquifer under the runway complex?

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    21. Confired? Please explain as this is a new word on me or is it something from The Apprentice?

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    22. A spelling error Tom it's "confirmed". Back to the point though why is an aquifer under the runway a complex problem? It means the airport closes doesn't it? Clean drinking water is more important than a bust WW2 airfield?

      Admittedly, Infratil and TDC have hardly behaved to safeguard the public since the monitors were removed in 2006.

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    23. There was an old codger in Thanet,
      who wanted no planes on the planet.
      The water is tainted,
      some folk have fainted
      and it's poisoned me poor Aunty Janet.
      (Cut short in her prime by 20% would you believe)

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    24. Sounds about right 9:15, but planes are still landing on the Manston aquifer even now aren't they?

      And with Infratil selling it off. And KCC and TDC not investing in carparks and roads any more.

      Why haven't the fines been imposed for cleanup before Infratil disappear?

      And a Police inquiry for endangering the public?

      The councillors and civil servants will still be getting their pay cheques.

      But by the time any of this happens though your Aunty Janet may well have shuffled off this mortal coil won't she?

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    25. So he is a complete and utter nutter. How can you respond to a limerick. Totally unreal.

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  4. Sewage spillage is not inevitable. If you live inland you can't conveniently dump sewage into the sea when it rains. Ask yourself how people manage in towns which are a hundred miles from the sea. Tonight's local news suggests that the problem was caused because pumps had failed. I could suggest using the back-up pumps but I'm sure someone will come up with a plausible reason why this couldn't be done (e.g. they didn't need back-up pumps because they had the sea). Good to know that the taxes we spend funding the Environment Agency aren't wasted, and that they haven't sanctioned a flawed (cheaper) system at North Foreland.

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  5. What is required here is a public inquiry. On the local news, the Environment Agency said that they would be conducting an inquiry. But, if the Environment Agency is part of the problem it is wholly inpappropriate for them to be conducting the inquiry. In my opinion, any inquiry conducted by the Environment Agency is likely to be a whitewash. They won't own up to the mistakes they have made and they will avoid being too critical of the water company for fear that the water company will highlight some of their many failings. We need a public inquiry where all of the evidence can be presented. This would include copies of the letters from public-spirited laypeople who took an interest in these matters and wrote to those in authority to notify them of the potential problem. It is time that those in positions of authority were held to account for their arrogance in ignoring a problem which was brought to their attention. They are paid a lot of money - now let them be held to account.

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  6. Well said 7:19 and our politicians think it in their interest to cover up the problems too.

    The manston aquifer and Thor etc are part of the same problem and failure by TDC, Southern Water and Environment Agency.

    A public inquiry and joint legal action and Police action as necessary will bring these problems into the open. Otherwise it's pat-a-cake buck-passing and nobody's fault, and payrises and pensions.

    Southern Water made 285M pounds profit last year: they have enough to solve the problems.

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  7. This all goes back to 2010, SW have been in breach of discharge conditions and i believe where sued by the EA last year.

    Someone at TDC knew all this and kept it quite. Who they are should be exposed and sacked and if they are politicians they have no right to keep their seat.

    The management letter is not factual at all Micheal?

    Why dont you ask TDC the EA or SW why the Ramsgate discharge pipe's-system is not working properly?

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  8. where does Ramsgate's discharge come out? how/why is it not working?

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  9. Michael you say, "There is no way that pollution incidences can be avoided..." maybe and yet we are still able to land things on Mars.

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  10. Opposite the new port adjacent to the western under-cliff beach. No one knows why its not working properly as the system that checks it (the electronics) has been a failure since it was built.

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  11. another sewage discharge pipe is not working (for how long?) and nobody is responsible or knows how to fix it?

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  12. It would be very alarming if the water that we enjoy at the beach is not clean and has sewage leak merging with it. Those responsible need to manage sewer water properly to prevent leakage for his can cause health concerns. We know what composes sewage and it would be best that it is properly managed so that we can have a great time at the beach.

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