Last Friday, Huw and Sally-Ann Hart MP (Hastings and Rye) held their regular quarterly meeting with Southern Water Chief Executive, Lawrence Gosden. The meetings have been set up following the sea sewage pollution incidents in Summer 2022. The MPs are determined that all stakeholders and responsible bodies work together to eliminate Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO) incidents during times of heavy rain and to establish the cause of pollutants in Bexhill bathing waters which this year resulted in the water quality only being graded as sufficient.
During the meeting, Mr Gosden updated the MPs on the progress of a special project being undertaken with Rother District Council to establish the cause of water pollution coming from the Environment Agency outlet from Egerton Park stream. The bathing water quality continues to fall which has an impact on local residents enjoyment of the beach and the local tourism businesses. Consultant environmental engineers, Adler and Allan will be commencing the second stage of the project in February. The project comprises a full and detailed survey of the Bexhill coastline and inland sections of un-culverted watercourse (upstream of Egerton Park). Mr Gosden reported that no pollutants have been found during the first part of the project. Full details of the background to the project can be found in the link below.
Mr Gosden also reported further facts to the MPs which indicate that the cause of increased CSO discharges into waterways and seas is due to increasing levels of surface water ie from highways, houses, gardens and fields entering the sewerage system. The amount of actual sewage entering the sewerage system has fallen by 30% over the past 30 years, despite population growth. During normal times, the sewerage system is more than able to cope with the volume of household and commercial sewage. However, increasing incidents of heavy rain entering the sewerage system have resulted in the network being regularly overloaded. Without CSO releases, surface water would overload the system and properties would be flooded.
Southern Water is about to embark on a multi-million pound programme to remove surface water from the their sewerage network in order to reduce the need for CSO discharges. Mr Gosden wanted the MPs to be aware that everyone can do their bit to reduce or slow down surface water entering the sewerage system. At a higher level, this involves councils and house builders ensuring that all new developments have sustainable urban drainage systems in place to remove surface water from the sewerage system; better urban planning with more trees and green spaces to absorb rainwater; home owners ensuring their gardens are not over-paved to reduce run-off and installing simple measures like water butts to remove or slow down rainwater entering the sewerage system.
Huw also raised a local flooding issue in Pevensey which Southern Water are now investigating with the County Council to establish the cause and solution. They also discussed Southern Water's community engagement in Pevensey Bay to clear a drainage ditch which has been silted up with debris and rubbish. It is causing a smell nuisance to residents of Marina Avenue. Whilst the ditch is not owned or managed by Southern Water, they have volunteered to use their skills and equipment to help clear it and Huw will be joining the team who will be carrying out the work in late February.
Huw also asked for the final report into the Galley Hill sewage spill incident last August. Mr Gosden agreed to send a summary of the incident investigation and measures which have been put in place to prevent an further incident which Huw will share with constituents.
Sussex MPs are due to meet the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency and the Chief Executive of Southern Water in Parliament to discuss plans and investment to reduce CSO incidents.