Anger as sewage released into St Leonards and Bexhill bathing water

Southern Water has confirmed sewage was released for 15 minutes yesterday (March 30) into bathing water in Bexhill and St Leonards.

St Leonards and Bexhill are both frequently used as outfalls for sewage.

Before this latest release, sewage was last released on March 13, 2022.

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Outfall sites like St Leonards and Bexhill are used to dispose of sewage to stop overflow after heavy rainfall.

West St Leonards beach looking towards Galley Hill in Bexhill. Southern Water has confirmed that sewage was released in St Leonards and Bexhill yesterday (March 30) to stop a sewage overflow. SUS-190129-143209001

According to the government there are around 15,000 storm overflows in England, and in 2020 there were over 400,000 sewage discharges - totalling over 3 million hours.

Southern Water was fined £90m last summer for deliberately dumping raw sewage into protected seas for financial gain but outfalls are currently a legally accepted part of the sewage system.

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.

A spokesperson said: “This was a permitted storm release following rain. We’re working to cut such releases by 80 per cent by 2030.”

Clean Water Action during a recent protest. Becca Horn, pictured here in the blue, has spoken out against Southern Water after they released sewage into bathing water in Bexhill and St Leonards. SUS-220331-131003001

Clean Water Action, an environmental action group, has campaigned against Southern Water - notably in St Leonards last year after a major sewage leak.

Becca Horn, member of Clean Water Action, said: “Once again Southern Water has been dumping untreated sewage into our seas. This is the second alert in as many weeks for St Leonards and Bexhill.

“Have we had heavy rainfall recently? No. So why the need to release from their combined sewer overflows?

“It goes to show they are failing at providing the required capacity even in normal times.

“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.”

The Environment Agency said; “England has a combined sewage system made up of hundreds of thousands of kilometres of sewers, built by the Victorians, in many urban centres.

“This means that clean rainwater and waste water from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens are conveyed in the same pipe to a sewage treatment works.

“During heavy rainfall the capacity of these pipes can be exceeded, which means possible inundation of sewage works and the potential to back up and flood peoples’ homes, roads and open spaces, unless it is allowed to spill elsewhere.

“Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) were developed as overflow valves to reduce the risk of sewage backing up during heavy rainfall.”

The news comes as the government today (March 30) opened a new consultation for people to give their views on what targets water companies should be set for storm overflow reduction.

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