Council leader calls for urgent action on sewage from Southern Water

Responding to recent reports of sewage outflow into the sea across the south coast, Brighton & Hove City Council Leader, Phélim Mac Cafferty, called for urgent action from Southern Water. 

“Like many, I’m disgusted by the scenes of raw sewage being pumped into the sea in Seaford. This marks another sad and stark day for our environment.

“This was one of 14 sewage warnings across Sussex [1] yesterday (Tuesday 16 August). Seaford is in what’s known as a Marine Protected Area which is an area specifically set up to protect fragile wildlife and habitats. Southern Water urgently need to explain themselves.  

“Dumping sewage into the sea is not only harms wildlife, it affects everything from our health, public safety to the local economy. It’s in all our interests that this Victorian malpractice stops now.” 

In July, the council pledged to ‘keep challenging’ Southern Water on the amount of sewage it releases into the sea. 

At the time, Southern Water boss Nick Mills, who heads up the company’s Storm Overflow Task Force, said sea sewage caused by overflowing sewers is ‘unacceptable’.

Heavy rain can cause sewage overflows 

The problem of sewage can happen during heavy rain when local sewer networks struggle to cope with the amount of water entering pipes and storage tanks.  

When the tanks become full of rain, Southern Water uses pressure relief valves built into the network – known as storm overflows – to release excess water into rivers and the sea, which can also include large amounts of sewage. 

Mr Mills also gave a presentation in July to the council’s Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee outlining what the company sees as the problems the region faces as the local sewer network is old and needs replacing.

Southern Water previously received a record-breaking £90million fine for releasing sewage into the sea. When sentencing the water company, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson said it had discharged between 16 billion and 21 billion litres of raw sewage into some of the most precious, delicate environments in the country.  

“Completely unacceptable”

Councillor Mac Cafferty added: “Yesterday there were eight sewage pipes pouring raw sewage into the sea around Brighton & Hove.

“This is completely unacceptable. We can’t have the situation where our environment continues to be a dumping ground for sewage. 

“Southern Water need to stop the sewage and pay for an immediate clean-up. But they also need to do much more to stop this happening again. 

“For our part the city council will continue to do what we can to protect our environment and biodiversity. That includes our seafront team helping our communities make informed decisions about whether and where to go in the sea.

"I advocate that people refer to the resources available such as the excellent information from Surfers Against Sewage.

“I’m meeting with Southern Water’s Chief Executive next week and I will be challenging them to stop this appalling behaviour and act urgently for our health and environment.”

[1] listed by Surfers Against Sewage.