Kent

Southern Water Thanet sewage spill hits beach business

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Media captionSurf school owner Dave Melmouth said he had to cancel a week of business

A water firm dealing with a sewage spill affecting 16 miles of east Kent's coastline has said it will hold talks with businesses seeking compensation.

Surf school owner Dave Melmouth had to cancel lessons worth about £5,000 after beaches closed on Monday.

He said he feared Thanet's beaches could lose their Blue Flags, which recognise water quality and facilities.

Jon Crooke, from Southern Water, said any businesses affected by the spillage should contact the company.

Mr Melmouth said his business, Joss Bay Surf School, had been fully booked for the whole week because of the bank holiday and school half-term and the incident had been "devastating".

Blue Flag fears

He said: "The fact that this is happening in this day and age is not good enough really."

He added: "Ultimately next year we could lose our Blue Flags off the top of it and public confidence."

Mr Crook said: "Clearly the condition of Thanet's beaches is as important to us as it is to all the beaches right across the South East, so the key thing for us to do is get the works to run as it should run."

The Foreness Point Sewage Pumping Station failed a week ago after heavy rain.

Southern Water alerted Thanet council on Sunday after it was unable to get the plant back into operation.

The authority tested water quality before closing 20 bathing beaches on Monday.

Mr Crooke said sewage stopped leaking on Tuesday when the company managed to get three pumps working, but more repairs were needed.

Following reports that people were still going into the water, Thanet Council said all popular bays had a lifeguard service and Southern Water had put signs up at other beaches to advise the public to stay above the high-tide mark and out of the water.

The council said it hoped to reopen beaches as soon as possible.

In May, the Keep Britain Tidy campaign said Thanet council had more Blue Flag beaches than any other area in England.

It awarded Thanet nine Blue Flags , beating Torbay, in Devon, which has five.

The Environment Agency is investigating the incident.

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