NEW figures show the extent of the “disgusting” volume of raw sewage being dumped into waterways.

Figures for 2021 from The Rivers Trust reveal raw sewage spilled dozens of times for hundreds of hours in several popular bathing spots.

Lewes Liberal Democrats pointed towards Barcombe Mills as one of the worst affected areas, with 62 spills recorded for a total of 499 hours discharging into the Bevern Stream, which runs between Burgess Hill and Ringmer.

Meanwhile, there were 88 spills into the English Channel at Newhaven, totalling 326 hours of sewage draining into the ocean.

The Argus: Splash point in Seaford, near Newhaven where sewage was pumped for hundreds of hours in 2021Splash point in Seaford, near Newhaven where sewage was pumped for hundreds of hours in 2021

At Ditchling, there were 109 spills for a total of 1,678 hours, also into the Bevern Stream.

James MacCleary, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Lewes, said action needs to be taken to stop raw sewage being “dumped directly into our local rivers”.

Conservative MP for Lewes Maria Caulfield said there is now clearer data being published “to hold water companies account”, which includes fines.

Southern Water said it is investing £2 billion by 2025 to improve its “operational and environmental performance”.

The Argus: The River Cuckmere near Seaford saw 34 spills totalling 461 hours in 2021The River Cuckmere near Seaford saw 34 spills totalling 461 hours in 2021

But James MacCleary said: “It’s frankly disgusting to think about the sheer volume of raw sewage being intentionally dumped into our waterways. I was recently at Barcombe Mills and the scale of the problem was very clear to anyone with a nose. Everyone should feel safe to make the most of our precious local environment.

"Conservatives, including local MP Maria Caulfield, should do the right thing and back our proposals to clean up the sea and rivers. We need a sewage tax on water companies, and action now to stop raw sewage being dumped directly into our local rivers.

“Instead of pushing for action, our MP is supporting weak legislation. Sadly, we have seen time and again that Maria Caulfield always puts loyalty to her party ahead of the needs of her constituents.

"If she cared about our community at all, she would press her fellow government ministers to rein in the water companies, who are putting profits for shareholders ahead of clean rivers.”

The Argus: James MacCleary at Barcombe MillsJames MacCleary at Barcombe Mills

Maria Caulfield said: “As part of the recent legislation that I voted for and which opposition parties voted against, we now have clearer data being published to hold water companies to account.

“We have set clear actions that we expect water companies to take to end these sewage discharges and record levels of fines to hold them to account if they fail.

“In addition work will start on reforming our sewage system to end the use of sewage discharges which have been part of the national sewage system since it was devised in Victorian times.

The Argus: Maria Caulfield at Newhaven Maria Caulfield at Newhaven

“I am sure people are as shocked as me to see these figures and it shows the government was right to act so that not only do we now have the data being regularly published but we have a plan of action to deal with this problem.”

A spokeswoman for Southern Water said: “Our improvement programme will see at least £2 billion invested by 2025 to improve Southern Water’s operational and environmental performance.

“This investment programme is enhancing our wastewater treatment works and pumping stations, expanding our sewer network, and installing innovative technology including sensors to identify system failures before leaks occur and real-time water quality monitoring.

The Argus: Testing of coastal rivers for sewageTesting of coastal rivers for sewage

“Our innovative storm water taskforce is already working on five pathfinder projects focusing on natural solutions which all help to slow the flow of water into our systems.

"While storm releases protect homes from flooding and are permitted during heavy rain, we have already committed to go further than the government proposal by reducing them by 80 per cent by 2030, a move which is backed by our customers.

“As part of our commitment to transparency, our Beachbuoy app shows in near real-time, 365 days a year, any release with the potential to affect sea bathing water.”

For more information, visit The Waters Trust sewage map.