Sewage pipe bursts in West Sussex village as foul smell lingers and tankers brought in; 'reports of dead fish'

A village in West Sussex was reportedly ‘under siege’ after a main sewer collapsed.

‘A stench of raw sewage’ waffs around Barnham after the incident on Thursday (December 7) – and major traffic disruption has been reported.

A Southern Water spokesperson said: “Our teams are repairing a collapsed sewer at Barnham Road which has resulted in a full road closure. This repair is proving to be difficult due to further issues we have encountered including a void under the road which means this work may take some time to complete. We’re very sorry for the disruption this is causing.”

Southern Water will be ‘discussing traffic arrangements’ with bus company Stagecoach following the closure of Barnham Road and ‘recognise this is having an impact on people in the area’.

Freelance photographer Eddie Mitchell was reporting from the scene.

He wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “The village of Barnham under siege with multiple Southern Water assets blocking the main road (and many others) due to a dilapidated collapsed main sewer.

"A stench of raw sewage waffs around, raw sewage pumped into The Barnham Rife, dead fish, a displaced Army veteran on the move again due to an earlier sewage incident eight months ago (same property).”

Locals have reportedly been told that the incident may not be resolved ‘until at least March’.

The collapsed sewer is also not the only issue being experienced by residents.

Homes at Marshall Close were flooded during Storm Ciaran – whilst Southern Water teams are also re-laying a sewer at Elm Grove. These works are ‘longer-term’ – expected to take place until the end of February.

Barnham resident Jonathan Wright said: “Whilst the collapse of the main sewer in Barnham Road is evidently due to heavy goods vehicles and general lack of maintenance, this is, certainly not the only contributor to the current situation we face here.

"The burden on the environment has taken its toll by way of flooding as a result of building on the natural drainage water courses.

“The above has now reached a critical pitch whereby Barnham is now practically marooned by road works, flooding and closures, prompting diversions on roads not fit to take the weight of traffic involved.”

Southern Water said the company is working with the local council ‘following wider flooding issues’ in the area ‘since the impact of Storm Babet and Storm Ciaran’.

A spokesperson added: “As part of this we have increased the number of tankers in use to reduce flooding of our sewer network in Barnham and Lidsey.

“We are sorry for the impact that our work is having in the Barnham area.

“Homes at Marshall Close were flooded during Storm Ciaran, we’re investigating whether any of our assets had any impact on this, however the primary reason for this is the rife next to the homes had burst its banks. We’re continuing to offer support to customers who were impacted.

“We have been made aware of reports of dead fish at the rife next to Marshall Close and are taking samples and carrying out our own investigations into this.”

The bungalows at Marshall Close flooded due to a rife bursting its banks. One home at this location, as shown on BBC South East, had sewage flooding.

On the reports of dead fish at the rife next to Marshall Close, a Southern Water spokesperson said: “We’re investigating this matter and are taking samples, so far we have found no high readings of ammonia (a key pollution indicator) and have found one dead fish.

"Flooding is a multi-agency issue, with different responsibilities coming from different organisations. Arun District Council is looking at creating a joint flood forum in future to manage these issues in a collaborative way going forward.

“There has been some overload of our sewer system near Lidsey Wastewater Treatment Works although this is subsiding and we’re currently using tankers to manage this.”