Sewage discharges into waterways soared by 87 per cent in a year, according to new data.

The Environment Agency has revealed that sewage poured into Lewes rivers and the sea for hours on end on hundreds of occasions.

In 2023, sewage was dumped into Lewes waterways for 17,644 hours on 1,512 separate occasions. The Environment Agency said that was an 87 per cent increase on the previous year.

Nationally, data showed sewage was released into England's rivers for more than 3.6 million hours in 2023.

The figures come days after  Conservative Lewes MP Maria Caulfield abstained on an amendment vote to the Criminal Justice Bill that proposed the criminalisation of discharging sewage into waterways.

James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes, said: “It is disgusting that Southern Water pumped their filthy sewage into our waterways so many times last year. Every week there is raw, untreated sewage being pumped into the Ouse and the Cuckmere and straight into Seaford Bay.

"On doorstep after doorstep, people across our area tell me how furious they are that filthy sewage has been pumped into their rivers and waterways - they want action now.

"Instead, the local Conservative MP Maria Caulfield can't even be bothered to turn up to vote on an amendment which would have made water company bosses criminally liable for sewage dumping.”

Southern Water said the dramatic rise was because the last 18 months were the wettest on record, leading to storm overflows.

Southern Water’s director for wastewater operation John Penicud said: “Slashing the number of storm releases is top priority for us and our customers. Last November we announced our £1.5 billion storm overflow reduction plan which will combine innovative engineering with nature-based solutions.

"The past 18 months have been the rainiest since records began. The ground was utterly waterlogged in many areas, inundating our own sewers and customers’ drains and sewers.

"We’re extensively relining sewers, to keep sewage in and rainwater out, and our storm release reduction pilot schemes have already proved that nature-based systems can have a real impact.”

Maria Caulfield did not respond to a request for a comment.