- Posted by: Canterbury Labour
- Category: Latest News
Labour councillors twice met with Southern Water this week as they continue to press the company on the pumping of untreated sewage into our seas. Residents have suffered a second consecutive summer during which the advice from Southern Water has been not to bathe during or after storms. Despite calls for government ministers to come and meet SOS Whitstable by our MP, this Conservative government is still failing to act.
During both meetings Labour councillors learnt that:
- residents concerned about the smell near the Swalecliffe Treatment Plant can now get real time access to odour monitoring stations on the site. Anyone concerned about smells on site or wanting a log in to the system should email [email protected]
- plans are being drawn up to reconfigure the current Swalecliffe site and make better use of the additional storm tanks before sewage has to be pumped out to sea. The screens which filter out hard matter (wet wipes etc) from the water are being replaced in December. The reconfiguration and changes to the efficiency of pumping motors are modelled to see a 40% reduction in emissions out to sea by May 2023.
- the recent survey work of the Gorrell Tank is nearing completion. Engineers have been surveying the inside of the tank and assessing best how to replace the 210 concrete columns. The concrete columns were made in the 1970s of an overly alkaline grit which is eating away at the steel core. A temporary structure has been installed to to bear the weight of the Gorrell Tank Car Park and protect engineers working on the structure. Southern Water has signed contracts with CDMP for this work to be carried out next year. The final plans will be agreed in April 2024 after-which we will know, if any, temporary reduction in car park capacity we can expect.
- teams have identified three properties in the catchment who have discharging waste water into the underground Gorrell Stream. The Gorrell Stream runs into the Gorrell Tank and then is released into the Harbour at low tide. Two of the three misconnections have been remedied, one should be sorted by the end of the month. Engineers will continue to monitor the quality of water in the Gorrell Stream to see if other missed connections have occurred. Interestingly, a large proportion of these missed connections happen when people move and replumb their own washing machines into the wrong drains. Residents who have had building work or extensions done involving replumbing are encouraged to visit the website www.connectright.org.uk for guidance on how to check you are not at fault.
- first plans have been drawn up for a £175,000 improvement plan for the Swalecliffe Brook. This plan is to be funded by Southern Water following damage to the brook in 2021. Southern Water conceded to our demands that the plans will be subject to an online consultation through the CT5 People’s Forum. Photos published by SOS Whitstable of dark patches within the brook during August were investigated by the Environment Agency and found to be an algal scum caused by high tides breaking over the gravel bank and overwhelming the stream
- a project manager has been appointed to oversee the pathfinder project designed to help improve surface water retention and prevent our drainage system overflowing. The pathfinder project, which ambitiously plans to reduce surface runoff by almost 80% by 2025, is outlined in a technical document published by Southern Water in July. Labour councillors have been invited to join a taskforce meeting month to draw up a detailed plan for the project and discuss ways in which Southern Water can better engage with the local community.
- the real time water quality monitoring buoy deployed off Tankerton is still being configured. This buoy is only the second of its type to be deployed in the UK.
- A mobile water quality monitoring system purchased by Southern Water is to be leant to the city council and SOS to help with citizen science. The Fluidion system is substantially more reliable and accurate than previous community testing for e-coli projects. Initial training is due to start in October and measurements be taken throughout the winter.
In all these conversations Labour councillors have fought for Southern Water to be more proactive in their communication with residents – recent work undertaken in the Gorrell Tank had not been explained properly to residents of Reservoir Road and the company had not chosen to publish the results of the Environmental Agencies investigations into photos of the brook . Your councillors have again highlighted how any temporary reduction to the capacity of the Gorrell Tank would damage local trade and lead to gridlock of our roads. Southern Water have promised that the tank won’t need to be widely closed off to do the work and we will will hold them to that promise.
This week Labour further detailed what it would do in government to protect our seas. Jim McMahon, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, made a speech at the Labour party conference where he promised a Labour government would:
• Deliver mandatory monitoring of all sewage outlets (including our inland rivers)
• Give the Environment Agency the power and resources to properly enforce the rules
• Introduce a legally binding target to end 90% of sewage discharges by 2030. A 15% target reduction each year.
• Introduce automatic fines for discharges, and a standing charge penalty for discharge points without monitoring in place
• Ensure any failure to improve is paid for by eroding dividends, not added to customer bills, or hitting vital investment in the system
• Water bosses that routinely and systematically break the rules will be held professionally and personally accountable, by striking off company directors and ensuring illegal activity is punished.
It remains a travesty that this government has allowed over a million sewage spills over the last six years; one every two-and-a-half minutes: every one sanctioned by Tory MPs who blocked changes for tougher action.
Labour remains on your side in the fight against sewage and looks forward to seeing as many of you at the SOS Whitstable protest planned for the Sunday 9th October at 2pm.