Sewer overflow released into Bexhill and St Leonards bathing water

Southern Water has confirmed sewage was released during the early hours of this morning (June 30) for 40 minutes into the sea at 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.

The company has announced plans to cut such releases by 80 per cent by 2030, 20 years earlier then the government’s proposal. It has also pledged to invest two billion pounds to improve customer service and protect the environment by 2025.

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

A Southern Water spokesperson said: “In heavy rain combined sewer and drain systems across the country were designed to release excess water through outfalls to prevent flooding to homes, schools and businesses. We disclose these releases through long sea outfalls in near real time 365 days a year so that recreational water users may take informed decisions.

"Beachbuoy is undergoing continual improvement and the next step will be to provide likely impact on water quality. Our storm water taskforce is working in partnership with councils, developers and others to slow the flow of rain water and reduce the amount of rain entering our systems.”

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. Eighty per cent by 2030 is neither good enough nor fast enough.

“They have promised to invest two billion pounds 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.”