A large sewage pipe at Bulverhythe belonging to Southern Water burst last week. According to initial reports, the leak occurred initially on the Wednesday and was partially repaired but, following heavy rain, the company turned on a pumping station to prevent local customers getting flooded, and this caused a further burst on the Thursday night.

CREDIT: Dave Young

The worst effects were experienced around the access road serving the Bulverhythe beach huts, a number of which became flooded with raw sewage. The spill ran on down into the sea.

Hastings Borough Council closed the beach the next day in consequence, advising people not to go onto the beach or onto the sea within the immediate area. By Saturday the Environment Agency were advising against swimming at Pelham and St Leonards beaches either. But, as it happened, the weather over the weekend was cool, and the sea choppy from blustery winds, so that few bathers would have been attracted in any event. 

Southern Water pledged to apply themselves to repairing the leak “around the clock”, and there was certainly a heavy build-up of service vehicles in attendance over the weekend. At the time of going to press, it was unclear what success they were having, or for how long the adjacent beaches might be affected. 

In July the company was fined £90m after a case brought by the Environment Agency exposed them as having deliberately dumped raw sewage into the sea at 17 sites off Kent, West Sussex and Hampshire with nearly 7,000 illegal spills between 2010 and 2015. The trial judge said that the company had shown “a shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment” and that the offences had been committed deliberately by its then board of directors in order to avoid the costs of upkeep and upgrades.

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