Thanet beaches closed to swimmers after sewage spill

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Media captionThanet's beaches have gone from blue flag to red flag as cleaners work to clean the sand

More than 20 Kent bathing beaches have been closed to swimmers after sewage was discharged into the sea.

The closure of all beaches in Thanet was caused by a failure at the Southern Water Foreness Point Sewage Pumping Station after heavy rain.

Spokesman Jon Crooke said the pumping station discharged water which could otherwise have flooded homes.

Red flags are being flown at the beaches, many of which had recently won Blue Flag awards for cleanliness.

Visitors have also been told not to cross the high tide line.

The beaches have been closed since Monday but raw sewage started to enter the sea last Wednesday.

'Pumps blocked'

Thanet District Council said they would stay shut for at least two days as a precautionary measure and it had been forced to act following more downpours on Sunday night.

Last month, it was revealed Thanet had more Blue Flag beaches than any other area in England.

The awards recognise high water quality and facilities.

Beach cleaners and litter pickers are on site while officers from the council and representatives from the Environment Agency and Southern Water Services fully assess the situation.

RNLI Lifeguards are also informing the public of the situation.

Jon Griffin, senior environment officer at the Environment Agency, said it was carrying out an investigation and working with Southern Water and Thanet District Council "to reduce the impact of the spillages as much as possible".

"We will continue to monitor the bathing water quality over the coming days and will advise Thanet District Council accordingly," he said.

Southern Water said the pumping station failed following heavy overnight rain last Wednesday.

"The pumps became blocked and to prevent flooding of the local properties the station then spilled out to the sea," Mr Crooke said.

"Stations are designed to do this, if they become overwhelmed by water or through the failure of the works themselves, then the first thing they'll do is spill to the sea."

He said there was a possibility that more raw sewage could enter the water if there was further heavy rainfall but the aim was to get the beaches reopened to swimmers as soon as possible.

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