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Water firm could face charges over sea sewage
A water company which dumped tons of raw sewage into the sea faces possible criminal charges.
For more than 36 hours, Southern Water pumped the waste just off the East Worthing coast after it experienced problems with its water treatment works in Western Road.
Swimmers have been advised by Worthing Council to stay out of the water from Southwick to Ferring as the Environment Agency (EA) works with Southern Water to prevent further risk to the beach.
A spokesman for the EA confirmed it has launched a criminal investigation and will take “appropriate action” pending the outcome.
Worthing resident Sue Mulholland went for a swim on Monday morning after not seeing any red flags on the beach.
She said: “I was horrified, spat as much water out as I could and scrambled out of the water as fast as the seaweed and sloping stones would let me.
“Needless to say I headed back for a very thorough shower. I returned to the promenade less than an hour later and searched for a sign.
“Eventually, I found an A4-sized piece of paper attached to a small signpost. There were no hazard signs or exclamation marks or the usually red triangle or circle.”
Southern Water has apologised after it blamed a build-up of non-biodegradable items, such as nappies and sanitary towels, for the pump failure.
A spokesman added: “We can confirm we stopped releasing wastewater flows through the emergency, short sea outfall on Monday.
“Staff have been working 24/7 at the treatment works since the problems began on Saturday night.
“Diverting wastewater into the sea, via the emergency outfall, was necessary to prevent localised flooding in Worthing.
“Repair work is continuing on site today and there will be a full investigation into the incident.”
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) campaign director Andy Cummins said he wanted better safeguards to stop a repeat of these incidents.
He added: “It’s disappointing to see yet another serious failure in Southern Water’s sewerage infrastructure resulting in more beaches been closed off due to the significant health risks.
“Obviously improvements need to be made with the maintenance regimes and safeguards are needed in their sewerage system to protect popular bathing waters from repeated discharges of raw sewage."
Worthing Lib Dem Leader and shadow cabinet member for environment Alan Rice said: “Only in June we had raw sewage deposited in Homefield Park. We need to know the real problems behind these incidents, whether they are linked and we need a permanent solution to safeguard the health of Worthing’s residents and visitors.
"This is why Worthing Lib Dems are calling on Southern Water today to come clean with the Environment Agency and Ofwat – warts and all.”