SOUTHERN Water released as much as 17 million litres of sewage into the sea on Wednesday, The Argus can reveal.

The troubled water company pumped the waste into the English Channel for fours hours and 50 minutes after a power outage at its East Worthing Pumping Station.

The company stated it could not be sure how much waste was released but said its long sea outfall pipe releases water at a rate of up to 1,000 litres per second.

If that was operating at max capacity for the full four hours and 50 minutes, 17,400,000 litres of sewage would have been released.

The leak follows a similar incident at the same station back in 2012. Five years ago 40 million litres of sewage was released into the sea, leading to beaches along a ten-mile stretch to be closed for six days. Southern was prosecuted in that instance and fined £160,000 with £27,000 costs.

The Environment Agency stated investigations were ongoing and similar action was a possibility.

This week’s incident is the latest in a long line of sewage leaks which has prompted questions as to whether Southern has learnt from mistakes.

Andrew Coleman, from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), said: “That is the first question we will be asking. It was a very similar incident in 2012 for which the company was fined Have they not put systems in place to prevent the same thing happening again? We will be looking into it.”

Mr Coleman also said there were concerns about communication following the incident. He said SAS had not been contacted by Southern. Instead it was instead kite surfers who notified them.

He said: “We update our Safer Seas Service App throughout the day but we weren’t notified. If it is dangerous to be in the water then we need to be able to tell people.”

Southern said a power outage damaged the main operating system at the East Worthing Pumping Station and as a result the emergency generator did not kick in.

A spokeswoman added: “This caused substantial damage and prevented any fallback contingencies from starting. We held storage of flows on site and within the catchment for approximately three hours before having to use the long sea outfall to prevent customers flooding whilst we brought in emergency back-up generators.”


SOUTHERN Water regularly appears in The Argus, almost exclusively for the wrong reasons.

The last decade for the company has been one of inflation busting price increases, awful service and multiple incidents of damaging the environment and putting the public at risk.

Back in 2007 Southern was hit with a £20.3 million fine for lying about its service and overcharging customers.

The water regulator found the company had “systematically manipulated information” which meant Southern Water was able to raise its charges by more than it should have done.

The same year the company was fined £8,000 after it released sewage on to a beach while children played nearby. It was July 19 when a mechanical failure at the Cooden Sea Road Sewage Pumping Station, Bexhill, led to sewage flowing down the beach and into the sea.

The following year customer complaints increased by a massive 155 per cent.

But despite the dismal record, water rates increased year on year above inflation. In 2008 they went up by 5.8 per cent, in 2011 it was a 6.4 per cent and then a whopping 8.2 per cent the following year.

Customers and pressure groups pleaded with Southern for leniency but the company ignored them.

In 2012 bosses were in trouble again, this time for polluting a popular stretch of river in an incident which the Environment Agency described as “totally avoidable”.

The company was fined £10,000 after more than 50 fish were killed when sewage leaked in a tributary of the River Arun. Southern admitted its officers had blundered by inspecting the wrong site.

Later the same year it pumped 40 million litres of untreated sewage into the sea between Lancing and Ferring. All beaches along the roughly ten-mile stretch were closed for six days following the incident. An investigation was launched and the company was fined £160,000 – an amount described as a “pittance” by environmental groups and councillors. The following year prices went up again despite making a profit after tax of £156.9 million. Unsurprisingly the water company was named the worst performing in the country with a 77 per cent increase in complaints.

In 2013, Southern was caught releasing untreated sewage again, this time into Swalecliffe Brook in Kent. Judge Adele Williams ruled the company had been negligent for the incident which happened as Whitstable prepared for its annual oyster festival. The pollution was so bad eels were spotted trying to jump out of the brown water. Hundreds of fish died and the company was hit with a £500,000 fine.

Just last year Southern Water was hit by a record £2 million fine for flooding beaches in Kent with raw sewage, leaving them closed to the public for nine days.

Sewage poured on to beaches, which were left strewn with tampons, condoms and other debris and it ended up costing more than £400,000 to clean up. A judge slammed the repeat offending as “wholly unacceptable” and ordered the company learn from mistakes and clean up its act up.

But this week’s incident shows it is business as usual for Southern. Like with Southern Rail, we have no option but to line their pockets. But how long can they be allowed to get away with it?