Environment Agency investigates as raw sewage shuts down three beaches

Southern Water has found itself in the spotlight again after a serious sewage leak forced a council to close down a beach in East Sussex and the Environment Agency to advise against swimming at two others.

Photograph: Sam Mellish/Getty Images Photograph: Sam Mellish/Getty Images

A sewage pipe belonging to Southern Water burst last week, flooding Bulverhythe beach in Hastings with untreated human waste, including a number of beach huts. 

Hastings Borough Council has closed the beach until further notice and the Environment Agency has also advised against swimming at nearby Pelham and St Leonards beaches.

On Friday, Southern Water’s use of a pumping station caused the pipe to leak a second time, according to the BBC

Dominic Hallett, Southern Water's operational control manager, told the BBC that repair work is being carried out "around the clock" and specialist repair contractors are being brought in. The beach huts would be repaired to their original state, the water firm promised. 

Southern Water is one of the worst performing firms in the sector for pollution incidents and last month was fined a record £90m for deliberately dumping raw sewage into the sea thousands of times. 

A spokesperson for the firm said that repairs to the burst sewer are well advanced. "Final works to further increase the resilience of the repair are being carried out today. We are still working 24/7 to get the repair finalised as quickly as possible. We continue to hold tankers and have extra monitoring on site until we are confident the sewer is working normally," they said.

"Our customer van is in the area again today and our field customer team is engaging with beach hut owners affected by this incident. We are supporting them to ensure their huts are restored to their previous state and we replace any items which have been damaged in this incident. Our customer van is also an information point for the wider community. Our priority is to protect service to our customers and safeguard the environment," they added.

An Environment Agency spokesman said: “We are investigating the release of sewage into coastal waters off Bulverhythe, near Hastings, on 28 July. Our team is assessing the impact of the incident on the area. 

“We urge anyone witnessing pollution of the environment to contact us on 0800 80 70 60.”

 

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