Sewage has been pouring into a village pond and a chalk stream.

Southern Water has been over-pumping screened and diluted but untreated sewage into East Dean Village Pond and further downstream into the River Lavant at Charlton, both near Chichester.

The Lavant Valley is made of chalk rock which retains groundwater “like a sponge” meaning that after periods of heavy rain the water forces through hairline cracks into sewer pipes, causing them to become overwhelmed and potentially back up into people’s homes.

To combat the flood risk, machines pumped some of the sewage from the network into nearby waterways.

Aimee Felus, manager at the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust, said she was “shocked” to see waste being released into the water.

“A healthy chalk stream is wonderful. Sparkling clear water, shoals of fish and plants gently waving in the current,” she said.

The Argus: A sewage release site in the River LavantA sewage release site in the River Lavant (Image: Adur and Rother Rivers Trust)

“The River Lavant is a chalk stream but in contrast here we have a stream that is effectively dead, blighted by pollution and sewage fungus.

“What we see in the Lavant Valley is more clear evidence that the wastewater teams in Southern Water are lagging far behind.

“It is no wonder that Southern Water continue to be among the worst rated water companies for environmental performance.”

The Argus: People watch as sewage is released into the village pondPeople watch as sewage is released into the village pond (Image: Adur and Rother Rivers Trust)

The trust said it understands over-pumping prevents homes from flooding but said the practice should be “a short-term emergency measure in extreme circumstances”.

It is calling on Southern Water to “urgently implement an effective and long term solution”.

“To misquote a famous proverb: 'The best time to save a river was 20 years ago. The second best time is now',” said Aimee.

“With the climate emergency upon us and the terrible and depleted state of nature clear to see, we cannot waste any more time. We urge Southern Water and all of us collectively to act to protect our rivers now.”

The Argus: The ARRT says the River Lavant is 'effectively dead'The ARRT says the River Lavant is 'effectively dead' (Image: ARRT)

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A spokesman for the water company said he was sorry for the “inconvenience” of pumping sewage into the waterways.

“Groundwater infiltration had overwhelmed our network and it became necessary to use an over pumping method to prevent local homes from flooding,” he said.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused during this time.”