Hundreds of protesters wearing poo costumes, gas masks and fake sanitary products took to the water to campaign against more "disgusting" sea pollution.

Campaigners from across Brighton and Sussex swam out near the West Pier to call for water companies such as Southern Water to stop pumping raw sewage into waterways.

The protesters, joined by double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, said they wanted to hold the water companies to account in an election year - but were frustrated by years of inaction.

Laura Deasley, 53, smeared brown paint on her face and clipped sanitary products to her hair to show what she has to swim, surf and paddleboard in.

The Argus: Laura DeasleyLaura Deasley (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

She said: "I get panty liners stuck to my hands when I paddleboard. Last week the sewage was really, really bad.

"I’m pleased to come out if it’s going to make a change but it's been like this for years and has always been the same.

"I want to bring attention to the fact that this has to stop. This s*** can't go on."

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Protesters with Surfers Against Sewage paddled out to the waters near Brighton's West Pier to raise awareness of the amount of sewage pumped into Sussex's waterways.

Many campaigners wore sewage-themed fancy dress as they said they had become ill while swimming previously.

The Argus: Surfers Against Sewage protesters in fancy dressSurfers Against Sewage protesters in fancy dress (Image: Sussex News and Pictures)

Andrew Walker and Kevin Elliot, from Worthing, dressed up in poo emoji costumes to paddleboard out to the protest this morning.

Kevin, 49, said: "I’m pleased to come out if it’s going to make a change but its been like this for years and has always been the same.

"My dog gets ill when it goes in the river. The water companies are not good enough.

"It’s really frustrating. They promise to change things but they feel like empty promises."

Andrew, 43, added: "I’ve got sick a few times from going in the sea.

"The costumes are a bit of fun but very impactful too."

The Argus: Surfers Against Sewage protesters in BrightonSurfers Against Sewage protesters in Brighton (Image: PA)

The protest comes as Southern Water continue to be hit with a deluge of criticism about the amount of raw sewage pumped into waterways in Sussex.

Raw sewage was spilled into the sea for over 300,000 hours in the county last year, according to Water UK statistics.

Dame Kelly Holmes, who joined the protest today, said: "I love paddle boarding, it keeps me fit and its great for my mental health. Last week I went to a local river and it was disgusting – it smelt and it was just disgusting.

"Our oceans are suffering from the devastation of pollution.

"It's time for us to demand action.

"We must hold the water companies accountable."

The Argus: Dame Kelly Holmes, centre, with protestersDame Kelly Holmes, centre, with protesters (Image: PA)

Dr Nick Mills, director for environment for Southern Water, said the company "cares deeply about the health of our rivers and seas".

He added: “Reducing storm overflows is a key priority for us, but there are many factors which affect water quality including agricultural, industrial and highway run-off."

Southern Water says it will have spent £3 billion between 2020 and 2025 to help tackle the issue.