Sewer overflow released into Bexhill and St Leonards bathing water after storm

Southern Water has confirmed sewage was released during the early hours of this morning (May 19) for nearly three hours into the sea at Bexhill and St Leonards.

West St Leonards beach looking towards Galley Hill in Bexhill. Southern Water has confirmed sewage was released during the early hours of morning (May 19) for nearly three hours into bathing water in Bexhill and St Leonards.
West St Leonards beach looking towards Galley Hill in Bexhill. Southern Water has confirmed sewage was released during the early hours of morning (May 19) for nearly three hours into bathing water in Bexhill and St Leonards.

St Leonards and Bexhill are both frequently used as outfalls for sewage to stop overflow after heavy rainfall.

Southern Water, which announced a £138.8m profit last year, says outfalls are part of the design of the sewers and are regulated by the Environment Agency, and are used in areas where the sewers were built to carry both wastewater and rainwater away from communities.

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A spokesperson for Southern Water said: “Just 30 years ago only 41 per cent of our 84 beaches met the ‘acceptable standard’. Today thanks to huge investment and working in partnership with local councils and others, 80 of our designated bathing waters are ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ and none below acceptable.

“Storm releases made almost entirely of rainwater protect homes, schools and hospitals from flooding in the kind of intense rainfall we saw last night.

“Cutting the number is our next big challenge. Our five pathfinder projects aim to show we can cut such releases by 80 per cent by 2030. The government is proposing this level of cut by 2050 but we know our customers want us to go further and faster.

“Across the UK water companies are investing £7.1 billion between 2020 and 2025 to improve customer service and protect the environment and Southern Water is responsible for £2 billion of that.”

According to the government there are around 15,000 storm overflows in England, and in 2020 there were more than 400,000 sewage discharges.

Becca Horn, member of Clean Water Action, said after a similar release in March: “After decades of underfunding - with profits maintaining shareholders’ purses instead of our pipes - our sewage systems are in crisis. 80% by 2030 is neither good enough nor fast enough.

“They have promised to invest £2bn by 2025, but we have yet to hear their spending plan other than the £12.8m they announced they plan to spend on advertising to educate the public on saving water

“Southern Water must be held accountable for their continued pollution of our precious waterways.”

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