Friday, 18 February 2011

What are you drinking, the water or the wave? A review of drinking water pollution in Thanet

First, DON’T PANIC, make sure you are carrying your towel, engineering hat on for a mo. Before you read any of this stuff be assured that apart from swimming in the sea in Thanet after heavy rain, you aren’t likely to be drinking high concentrations of raw sewage, weedkiller and other nasties.

The environment Agency started to produce a leaflet groundwater quality in Thanet, if this is available on their website then I can’t find it, but I have managed to get hold of the first three of these leaflets covering the period from October 2009 to June 2010.

Thanet sits on its own drinking water reservoir, the chalk under Thanet acts like a big sponge and anything liquid that falls on the ground is soaked up and since pre history there have been wells dug into this chalk sponge, water drawn from these wells has been drunk by the people of Thanet.

The chalk filters some of the nasties out, some get through with the water and some parts of this underground reservoir have been so badly damaged by toxic chemical spills that the only thing to do is to keep pumping contaminated water from wells around the spill, so that it doesn’t spread to other parts of the chalk.

If you look at the rather splodgy map above you will see it has red bits on it, the red circles show the area around the drinking water pumping stations, and wiggly sausage like lines extending from these are “adits” underground tunnels for water leading to the pumping stations.

There are quite tight controls about what you can pour into the ground over the red bits, hence all the fuss over China Gateway, where the firm involved intended to let out lots of industrial units with their own septic tanks, draining into the red bit.

The green bits are not so sensitive, if you get caught short in the country, but not really a good place to throw away the contents of the bottle at the back of the shed with the skull and crossbones on it.

The blue bits are even less sensitive, but what goes in there will probably eventually come out.

Issue one says that the EA have helped get £30m to mend our Victorian sewers and redirect sewage pipes that lead directly to the chalk and lots over other reassuring things see

I am assuming that having boiled your water or whatever you are now ready for issue two, this tells us among other things that the environmentally conscious Thanet Earth wanted to pour their effluent into the drinking water, but that after discussions with the EA has now got permission to build a sewage pipe. It’s a bit vague about where the effluent is going at the moment, perhaps they are crossing their legs, see

Issue three interestingly enough doesn’t contain the interesting page 4 “Site Specific Updates” that I read with interest in issues one and two, possibly nothing of note occurred at specific sites in Thanet during that period. Here is the link to issue three


  1. I notice in Episode 3 that the EA are busy congratulating themselves over Thanet Earth that they completely forgot to mention the proposals at Manston Airport. I also note from episode 4 that they have determined that groundwater heading south from the Thanet plateau is contaminating the surface water around the Stour, and therefore presumably the southern residue of the Wantsum Channel. Is this not the direction that Infratil want their pipe to go?

  2. Do you know if an independent test has been carried out on the quality of Thanet drinking water?.

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  5. Andrew the pipe is already there, the problem is that thousands of gallons of water put in the Manston end don’t seem to come out the Pegwell end. It’s not the pipe they are adding but an interceptor to trap oil at the Manston end. This should be an improvement as should the work to the various drainage pipes at Manston.

    Anything to stop fluids landing on the hardstanding at Manston going into the ground has to be an improvement as you can see from the map.

    Readit last time I checked the brewery did an annual one if I remember rightly, I think decontamination is done by way of adding chemicals and diluting Thanet water with water from Wingham Well.

    Sorry Retired but I can’t deal with comment naming individuals in a way that may be libellous, the way the law is at the moment it is me that takes responsibility for what is said on this blog.

  6. Michael
    If the water's not coming out the Pegwell end now a trap isn't going to change things.


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