'Sewage leak' in Chichester - 'I was terrified and couldn't sleep a wink'
A Chichester resident has been left distressed by what appeared to be a sewage leak outside her house over the Christmas period.
Christiane Lincoln, 66, who lives in Canal Wharf, said 'sewage has been pouring into the basin' for nearly a week, after firefighters and Southern Water prevented the nearby homes being 'flooded with waste water' last weekend.
She said: "We have had to call the fire brigade out twice over the weekend to avoid having our homes flooded with waste water. It is not immediately apparent what Southern Water are doing to remedy the situation, certainly no communication has been made to us and the sewage keeps polluting the canal.
"There has been a total lack of communication on their part with people who are, after all, paying customers.
"I have nothing but the highest praise however, for the two fire crews who came out at the weekend on two successive nights and thus prevented the sewage to get into our houses.
"This has been going on since last Saturday and, as far as I can tell, is set to continue. The sewage is not just on private property, it also affects the public domain and should be tackled as a matter of priority."
Southern Water said it has attended Canal Wharf three times between December 21 and Boxing Day 'because our systems were starting to be overpowered by the extreme rainfall which is causing floods across the region'.
A spokesman said: "We worked in cooperation with the fire service to contain and divert flows with the priority being saving homes from internal flooding."
Christiane said the ordeal has been 'terribly distressing'.
She added: "I am an old lady living on my own. Some neighbours fled to relatives' over Christmas but I stayed here.
"The first night, I was terrified the sewage would get into my home.
"I couldn't sleep a wink. It was really frightening.
"I asked for advice on what to do at home and they recommended I don't use the water but that's impossible. You can't just stop living and stop using water at all.
"I had to take my washing to and have a bath at my daughter's.
"Surely they must have a procedure for this kind of thing and know what we should do. I understand it is a complex issue but at the least I just want to know it will be dealt with."
According to Christiane, the 'nightmare' began on Saturday morning (December 21) when water 'started oozing out from one of the man hole covers around the property'.
"At first, I thought nothing of it," she said. "More and more water started flowing and it was very dirty. It was clearly sewage.
"It was raining hard but me and my neighbour put on our water proofs and went out with a broom to push the water towards the canal and away from the property.
"It still managed to get right up to the front door of the three properties along the canal facing the basin."
The fire service confirmed the attendance of one engine over the weekend and said it 'used pumping equipment to resolve the situation'. A spokesman said Southern Water and the Environment Agency 'were also in attendance'.
Christiane praised the fire crews who 'stayed out for hours' putting down sandbags, preventing the water from flowing to the properties.
However, she is concerned that the continuing 'pollution' in the canal will affect wildlife.
In its response, the Southern Water spokesman said: "Our pollution inspector was on site and took readings to check if pollution was entering the harbour. No chemical indications of pollution were detected probably because there was so much rainwater.
"We will be cleaning around the area and we apologise for any mess or inconvenience.
"Where surface water drains are combined with sewers as most infrastructure built before the 1990s, systems are always vulnerable to overload and in such cases we release the stormwater to the environment where permitted by the Environment Agency.
"In some highly flood prone areas we do invest to separate the system despite the cost to customers and the inconvenience caused by digging up lengthy stretches of road."
The Environment Agency has been approached for comment.