Original article from Kent Live
The coastal town of Herne Bay has been badly affected after periods of heavy rainfall caused sewage to discharge into the sea, polluting the water.
Several warnings advising against bathing have been put in place by the Environment Agency and Surfers Against Sewage, who monitor discharge from sewers and water quality, in the last few months.
Last weekend's storms caused a number of discharges into the sea from Southern Water's sewer overflows at Herne Bay, Whitstable, Swalecliffe and Tankerton.
This happens during periods of heavy rain to prevent the drainage system from being overloaded.
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There are two sewer overflows that discharge into the bathing water at Herne Bay – one discharges 600m offshore while the other is inland and discharges into a stream at the eastern end of the bathing water.
Whilst there are currently no warnings in place on the Environment Agency's Bathing Water Profile for Herne Bay, both local residents and visitors to the area have been avoiding taking a dip in the sea.
Last month Southern Water were fined a record £90 million after pleading guilty to thousands of illegal discharges of sewage which polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, Hampshire and Sussex.
Peta from Sturry was brought up in Broadstairs and has lived around the Herne Bay area for her whole life.
She came to the beach with her grandson, but has been keeping her distance from the polluted waters, choosing to sit along the parade instead.
Peta said: "This has been happening all my life – we've known about it, the authorities have known about it, it's despicable.
"I feel sorry for people who have invested in a holiday to come here."
Peta pinned the blame on Southern Water and questioned whether they should be allowed to continue to operate in the area.
She added: "It feels as though it's all about money and they don't care.
"What beggars belief is that they've been fined for offences that took place over a decade ago but nobody had the foresight to add in all the recent issues.
"They should be stripped of the contract and it should be brought back into the public service."
It seems that many of the town's residents have similar feelings towards Southern Water.
'They need to get their act together'
Hannah came down to Herne Bay with her nine-month-old baby daughter Mila to enjoy the sunshine, but chose to sit on the pier instead of venturing near the polluted waters.
She said: "Mila is nine-months-old now and we haven't been in the sea once.
"I think it's shocking. The system they use needs a massive upgrade.
"They need to get their act together."
Hannah said she has family who run a shop in Herne Bay, which was badly affected by the recent flooding.
She added: "Southern Water are taking liability – they're still trying to get the water pumped out.
"When you hear the CEOs are getting massive bonuses, it's disgusting."
Whilst the pier and Central Parade in Herne Bay were crowded with people enjoying the sun yesterday afternoon (August 23), the beach itself was practically empty due to pollution fears.
'You could pick up anything'
Sherry from Ashford allowed her children to play on the beach, but kept them at the very edge – a good distance away from the water.
She said: "I wouldn't want to go in there and I wouldn't want my kids going in there.
"They could pick up anything, it's horrible."
Whilst many shops along Central Parade remained shut due to the damage caused by the recent flooding, business on the pier appeared to be thriving.
'It's been a big problem for the community'
According to Jasmine who works on the Fresh Donuts stall, the weather has the biggest impact on custom for them.
She said: "Some days are really busy and some days are really quiet – it depends on the forecast that day whether business is affected.
"I don't really swim in the sea but it's been a big problem for people in the community."
Southern Water pleaded guilty to 51 widespread and long term breaches of environmental law between 2010 and 2015 on July 9.
The offences were found to be caused by deliberate failings, causing major harm to protected areas, conservation sites and oyster beds.
The case is the largest criminal investigation in the Environment Agency’s 25-year history.
In giving his sentence, the Honourable Mr Justice Johnson said: "Each of the 51 offences seen in isolation shows a shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment, for the precious and delicate ecosytems along the North Kent and Solent coastlines, for human health, and for the fisheries and other legitimate businesses that depend on the vitality of the coastal waters.
"The discharges were made into highly sensitive protected areas including numerous conservation sites, causing major environmental harm to shellfish waters."
Southern Water were charged with the largest fine for environmental pollution by a water company to date.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: "The findings in this case were shocking and wholly unacceptable. Water companies should not be letting this happen and those that do will be punished by the full force of the law."
Southern Water has been approached for comment.