Hastings council calls for nationalising water services after sewage leaks

Burst sewage main down Cinque Ports Way, Bulverhythe Beach area, St Leonards. SUS-210730-104611001Burst sewage main down Cinque Ports Way, Bulverhythe Beach area, St Leonards. SUS-210730-104611001
Burst sewage main down Cinque Ports Way, Bulverhythe Beach area, St Leonards. SUS-210730-104611001
Hastings Borough Council is urging the Government to return the national water supply back to public ownership.

The authority said a letter is being sent to both Whitehall and Hastings MP, Sally-Ann Hart expressing ‘severe reservations about the performance of Southern Water’.

The move comes following the recent major sewage leak at Bulverhythe at the end of last month.

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Southern Water was first sent to a burst pipe under the cycle path at Bulverhythe beach, Cinque Ports Way, on Wednesday, July 28. Two days later there was a second serious sewage leak which flooded nearby beach huts and affected the beach.

As a result, the area was cordoned off and closed throughout the weekend, and into the early part of the following week.

A council spokesman said: “A letter is being sent to both the Government and our MP expressing severe reservations about the performance of Southern Water and asking urgent and serious consideration is given to returning the national water supply and drainage infrastructure to not for profit public ownership.

“We require Southern Water to commit to a correct methodology for the ongoing clean up at Bulverhythe, as agreed with both Natural England and the council.

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“We are working with the Environment Agency to assess the damage caused by the leak and to establish clear culpability. This is important so we can agree measures with Southern Water to prevent further similar incidents and to hold them to account for this leak. The Environment Agency will consider any penalties to be imposed on Southern Water.

“We are reviewing the actions taken by all agencies involved in the recent leak, including ourselves, to establish what worked well, what didn’t and how we can improve our response to any future incidents.

“We are pressing Southern Water for further detailed communications with both the public and our beach hut owners so that the cleaning up process and future investment in our water is transparent for all.”

The council said that its leader, Cllr Kim Forward, will be meeting Southern Water directors in October.

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A group of people are also planning to hold a demonstration on St Leonards beach later today (Friday, August 20).

The newly-formed Hastings and St Leonards Clean Water Action Group said it is organising the protest against Southern Water.

Campaigners are holding their protest near Azur between 5pm and 7pm.

Last month, Southern Water was fined a record £90 million for deliberately dumping sewage into the sea at 17 sites from Hampshire to Kent between 2010 and 2015.

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Cllr Forward said: ”A fit for purpose sewerage system and clean water for drinking and domestic use system are basic human rights and we expect Southern Water to provide the highest quality of service to all our residents and businesses.

“There is no excuse for a lack of maintenance leading to sewage leaks which foul our roads and coastline.

“Hastings Borough Council will use all its powers and influence to hold Southern Water to account, and hope that our residents will support this with an ongoing campaign to scrutinise their performance.

“Please report any concerns about defective sewers, leaking pipes or other water issues to us on My Hastings, and we will use this data to press immediately for a better service and longer term for a sewerage and water supply system not managed by private companies for profit.”

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This week a Southern Water spokesman said the company worked ‘rapidly’ after the sewer main broke close to Bulverhythe beach.

He said a fleet of tankers was deployed to manage flows so the firm could continue to provide wastewater services to customers and mitigate damage to the environment.

The spokesman said: “Work to repair the burst was completed quickly and a full clean up instituted. We have pledged to recompense the owners of beach huts directly impacted by the incident and have remained in close contact with them.

“We also liaised closely with the council, local MP and key agencies including the Environment Agency and Natural England throughout the incident.

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“While events such as a broken pipe are hard to predict and hard to prevent, improving environmental performance is at the heart of Southern Water’s mission. “With a new equity investment in the business, our current plans to invest £1.7bn between 2020 and 2025 on improving our 367 wastewater treatment works, more than 3,000 pumping stations and 39,500km of network are being expanded and accelerated with an extra £235m available.

“Our pollution incident reduction plan has the goal of halving incidents by 2025 and help us to target our spending where it will do most good.”