The discharge of sewage into the River Lavant and Chichester Harbour has been blasted as a ‘damned disgrace’.
County councillor for Chichester North, Mike Hall, criticised Southern Water for releasing sewage into the River Lavant at Singleton because the systems in place just could not cope with the extra rainfall.
The outburst came after Chichester Harbour Conservancy’s annual meeting last Friday, where it was disclosed sewage was pumped into the harbour on more than 20 days because the sewage treatment works in Apuldram had become overloaded.
Southern Water confirmed that sewage was still being discharged into the river as the Observer went to press on Wednesday.
“It is time someone stood up and said the system here is just too weak for us to cope with,” said Cllr Hall.
“People have got to recognise they can’t keep developing here without the infrastructure to support it. It’s a damned disgrace. In this day and age we should not be discharging raw sewage into the River Lavant. Children and dogs play in that area.”
Cllr Hall also warned this problem will happen time and time again unless the sewage system is changed. Southern Water first discharged sewage into River Lavant after liaising with the Environment Agency.
A Southern Water spokeswoman said: “We’ve recently experienced one of the wettest periods in history and the sewers in the Singleton area had reached maximum levels. To prevent the sewers from becoming overloaded, causing flooding to homes and gardens, we used tankers to transport excess stormwater to our treatment works in Chichester.
“However, over the weekend of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, our tankers would have been unable to drive through the area, due to increased traffic on the roads.
“So, with the permission of the Environment Agency, we pumped the heavily diluted wastewater into the River Lavant to prevent flooding in the area and to ensure people in nearby homes were still able to do things like flush toilets and use washing machines.
“This emergency action was taken as a last resort and only once we’d received permission from Environment Agency, which we work closely with.
“We have an ongoing maintenance programme across the region to keep the sewer network running as it should. We will be looking into what else, if anything, can be done in this area to prevent similar problems in future. We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused by these activities.”
Environment management team leader for West Sussex at the Environment Agency, Rod Pearson, said: “The underlying fact is this is not having a detrimental effect on the water course. The key message is we have recognised there is an issue there. Over-pumping is a solution.
“We did comprehensive testing when the system was introduced.”