Sussex sewage dumping protest - 'Untreated sewage to fill nearly six Olympic swimming pools'

Campaigners brought costumers, banners – and in some cases babies – in protest against sewage discharges in the Adur district.

Environmental campaigners Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has called for an ‘immediate end’ to sewage dumping at a popular Southwick swimming spot. The group accused Southern Water of dumping untreated wastewater for more than 300 hours since Christmas.

Bathers, surfers in costumes and wetsuits met for a demonstration on Saturday (January 13) at the outfall just east of the Kingston Beach car park.

The SAS said the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) at The Green, Southwick ‘discharges into the Adur estuary’ – near to the popular Kingston Beach, which is used by swimmers all year round, ‘especially in the rougher winter months’.

A joint statement by SAS representatives Andrew Coleman, Jesse Lambert-Harden and Stu Davies read: “Since Christmas, Southern Water’s own data shows that the outfall near Kingston Beach has been operating for over 300 hours.

“This is only 100m from a popular swimming spot at Kingston Beach which is used by swimmers and canoeists all year round as it is sheltered from winter waves.

"We estimate that enough untreated sewage to fill nearly six Olympic swimming pools has been discharged since Christmas and it is putting people’s health at risk.

"Yet there have been no warnings posted by Adur District Council, Southern Water or the Environment Agency.”

Southern Water has issued a statement, in response.

A spokesperson said: “The outfall at the green is into the inner harbour and protects homes and businesses from flooding, but we agree that the use of such outfalls must be reduced.

"This is a working harbour and there are many influences on the quality of water beyond Southern Water’s control. The harbour is not a designated bathing water.

“The designated bathing waters on the outside of the harbour at both Shoreham beach and Southwick, are both rated excellent by Defra based on testing results by the Environment Agency.”

The SAS said the CSO at Shoreham Wastewater Treatment Plant also operated for more than ten hours last week, adding: “This also appears to be a ‘dry spill’ as it hasn’t rained for days.”

The environmental campaigners have called for:

– Southern Water to ‘immediately end the sewage dumping’;

– Adur District Council and the Environment Agency to post warnings to ‘bathe at own risk’;

– The Environment Agency to reveal if it has been informed that the wastewater infrastructure is faulty (a requirement of the Environmental Permit) and what enforcement action it is taking;

– Adur District Council to ‘immediately start’ the application process to make Kingston Beach an official designated bathing beach;

The SAS representatives added: “We advise all swimmers, surfers and canoeists to bathe with caution in the Adur estuary and Shoreham

areas, download our Safer Seas and River Service app and use it to report sickness, email their MP and Southern Water’s CEO to protest.”

Adur District Council said it is ‘committed to achieving cleaner coastal waters’ across the district for residents and visitors that ‘enjoy spending time in and by the sea’.

A spokesperson added: “The series of recent releases, including the waste leak off Shoreham Harbour which has affected all of Adur’s coastline, including its river, is unacceptable, and we are demanding answers from Southern Water to ensure our communities don’t continue suffering off the back of its inaction.

“Kingston Beach is not a bathing site or an area we would recommend taking part in water-based activities. There are physical risks from shipping and the adjacent jet ski and lifeboat launches. We also believe that the tidal pull from the estuary would make this area unsuitable to designate.

“For the government to designate a site as bathing water, there must be evidence of a high number of bathers using the site - a threshold we don’t believe Kingston Beach would meet.

“We are responsible for information signage at bathing sites as these are the locations advised for sea swimming or water sports. We update the signage on behalf of the Environment Agency.

“We are determined to ensure that more is done to prevent our coastal waters being polluted and we will continue to demand improvements from Southern Water.”

The Environment Agency has also released a statement.

A spokesperson said: “Sewage pollution can be devastating to human health, local biodiversity and our environment. Storm overflows must only be used under strict permitted conditions that control their environmental impact.

“Storm overflows have been part of the sewerage network since it was built. Discharges from storm outfalls under permitted conditions are not illegal – in fact they are an essential part of the combined sewer network in England.

“The Environment Agency has procedures in place to act against polluters where there is evidence permits have not been complied with. Our largest ever criminal investigation into potential widespread non-compliance by water and sewerage companies at thousands of sewage treatment works is ongoing.”