Council staff were unable to clear a dustbin from a four-inch deep stream because they weren't qualified to wear Wellington boots and a safety harness.
Instead local residents had to wade in to clear the metal bin and its load of filthy rubbish following the bizarre ruling from Chichester District Council.
The incident at South Harting has astounded villagers.
David Barnard, vice-chairman of the parish council, said: "They think it's an absolute joke."
He said the bin had been placed on a footpath leading to the village hall by a well-intentioned resident for passers-by to dump their litter.
But when it ended up in the stream, with its rubbish slopping out into the water, Mr Barnard contacted the district council.
He said: "I spoke to someone from the department dealing with fly-tipping and he said – and I quote – 'We don't have anyone qualified to wear Wellington boots'.
"I know they must have their health and safety regulations, fair enough, but it was only four inches of water."
Parish councillors themselves then seized the initiative.
Three of them donned their wellies, spent 20 minutes in the stream removing the bin and bagging up its unsavoury contents before loading bin and bags into a car and taking everything to the tip.
One of them, Pat James, said: "It was horrid, especially as it had all been in the water for a while. All you needed was wellies, a rake and a pair of rubber gloves."
The 71-year-old grandmother added: "It was easily accessible. I could get down there quite easily."
A spokeswoman for Chichester District Council said: "We do have health and safety strategies for all members of staff."
Observer reader Ron Baxter (60) said: "It's just ridiculous. You don't need training to put wellies on, do you? Priorities in this country are all wrong."
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