Sewage fears discussed at Eastbourne ‘water summit’

The MP for Eastbourne has held a ‘Water Summit’ to discuss ongoing concerns from sea swimmers about bathing water quality and sewage discharges.

Caroline Ansell chaired the event in the Town Hall following a meeting in earlier this year she had with swimmers. Full story here.

Swimmers, Southern Water, East Sussex County Council (ESCC), the Blue Heart Project and the Environment Agency all attended the summit.

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One of the main discussion points was the reduction of sewage discharges. Southern Water outlined its commitment to reduce the amount of surface water in combined sewage overflows by 80 per cent by 2030.

Eastbourne MP holds meeting to discuss concerns from sea swimmers

Going forward, Southern Water is to meet again with the swimmers and will be organising a tour of the treatment centre for them.

Mrs Ansell raised the power outage incident that occurred in February 2022 and concerned many constituents.

The Environment Agency and Southern Water investigated this and suspect that it was a result of an overwhelming of both surface and foul water within the system which caused the power outage.

The Environment Agency emphasised that the Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) holds responsibility for environmental health and the power to shut the beaches if there is a danger to the public.

However, a representative from EBC was not at the meeting. Mrs Ansell said she has written to EBC to find out about the decision not to close the beach.

A spokesperson for EBC said, “The council was first to publicise the Southern Water sewage leak and demanded immediate action to rectify the problem that caused it.

“Councillor David Tutt, leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, held urgent meetings with Southern Water and during this meeting the water company agreed to bring in permanent electricity generators at the water treatment works.

“The council also passed a motion, proposed by Cllr Josh Babarinde and seconded by Cllr Tutt, that called on Southern Water to make a series of improvements and asked the government to introduce a ‘Sewage Tax’ on water companies’ profits, to begin compensating for their discharges and to help fund a cleaner sea.

“The decision not to close the beaches was made in partnership with the Environment Agency, as daily checks were being carried out on the beaches and no sewage was found.

“Additionally, the weather conditions were such that no one was on the beaches or swimming and it was considered an outfall would have drifted away from Eastbourne.”

Speaking after the meeting Mrs Ansell said, “This was a really positive meeting where lines of communication were opened between local people who care deeply about water quality and those tasked with ensuring our sea is clean.

“I think everyone took a great deal from it and it keeps this issue at the top of the local agenda.

“Thank you to everyone who attended. The plan is to have more of these meetings in the future so we can keep track of progress with the ambition to have Eastbourne’s water rated excellent in the future.

“Our coastal setting and the opportunities the sea affords local people and our visitors is our number one asset. It is vital it is better protected. The Environment Act brings in a host of new powers and duties on water companies.”

Mrs Ansell said she will also be speaking to DEFRA regarding the definition of the ‘bathing season’ because although current guidance is from mid-May to late-September, there are swimmers who use the sea 365 days a year.

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