Raw sewage flows onto Isle of Wight beach

An overnight pump failure has caused raw sewage to flood parts of Ryde beachfront at Appley, in the latest of Southern Water’s sewage breaches.

Exclusion zones have been set up on Ryde Esplanade, after a pump failure caused floods of raw sewage to gather on the beachfront. 

Local walkers noticed a strong smell of sewage on Sunday morning, with a flow of effluent down onto the beach.

Southern Water told the Island Echo that the temporary pumping system, which bypasses a collapsed sewer at Appley, failed overnight and the pump had not been successfully moving Ryde’s wastewater to the main pumping station.

Exclusion zones are in place to ensure the safety of the public and a digger is on site to remove contaminated sand. There are also existing works in the area, which have been ongoing since January. A completion date for the repair project has not yet been given, but work could continue until October, according to the Echo.

A spokesperson for Southern Water told the Echo: “We are very sorry that the temporary pumping system bypassing the collapsed sewer at Appley beach failed overnight.This has resulted in some effluent escaping out of manhole covers on the promenade. To ensure the safety of the public we will set up an exclusion zone around the immediate areas.

“We are working quickly on the emergency repair and liaising with the Isle of Wight Council and the Environment Agency to minimise impact – we will clean up the area after the issue with the pumps is resolved.”

Across England, sewage was dumped into England’s waters 400,000 times in 2020, up from 200,000 the previous year, for a total of 3.1 million hours.

Of this, Southern Water accounted for 19,782 spill events and 197,213 hours of sewage pollution, according to Environment Agency figures, supplied by the water industry.

The firm has been frequently fined for sewage offences, including a £2,050,000 fine in December 2016 for the pollution of Kent beaches with untreated sewage in 2012 and 2014. It may also soon face a legal challenge for failing to solve a fly infestation in Uckfield.  

In October 2019, Ofwat levied a £126m penalty on Southern Water for “deliberately misreporting” the performance of its sewage treatment works. 

Documents submitted to Ofwat showed the company had moved tanker loads of sewage between plants to avoid EA inspections and penalties. In 2019, Ofwat ordered Southern Water to pay a package of penalties totalling £126m. Proportionate to the size of the business, the package of penalties and payments is the biggest Ofwat has ever imposed. 

Southern Water was approached for comment by ENDS.

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