Sewerage system failures in Torbay and the Isle of Wight
We’ve been celebrating the arrival (well nearly) of spring but have this week been disappointed to receive reports of two significant sewage discharges in Torbay and on the Isle of Wight, details of which can be found below.
SAS believe that any impact upon bathing water quality caused by avoidable sewerage system failure is un-acceptable and we will always work with water companies, local councils and the Environment Agency to prevent these failures and protect the health of all UK recreational water users.
There is a significant amount of raw sewage discharging into the sea as a result of the collapse of a section of Livermead Road on the Torbay waterfront earlier this week has resulted in damage to the sewerage rising main.
The majority of the raw sewage, an estimated 21,000 cubic metres per day is being discharged directly to the sea via the emergency overflow at Hopes Nose. This will have a direct impact on the water quality at Torre Abbey, Hollicombe and Beacon Cove and people are advised not to use the water. South West Water (SWW) are also tankering some of the sewage to alternative waste water treatment facilities.
There is also an increased risk of sewage pollution at Shoalstone, Broadsands, Goodrington, Paignton Sands, Preston Sands, Meadfoot, Anstey’s, Babbacombe, Oddicombe, Watcombe and Maidencombe.
SWW have advised us that work can only begin fixing the sewerage breach when work has been completed on the sea wall breach, road stabilisation and the gas main secured, which Torbay Council estimate will be on Friday the 5th of April at the earliest. SWW are therefore hopeful that work to fix the sewerage rising main will begin early in the week beginning 8th of April and as yet have not indicated when work will be finished.
Fairlee Sewage treatment works, Newport
A significant amount of untreated sewage was discharged into the Medina River after a multiple pump failure at Fairlee Sewage treatment works near Newport for several hours on the morning of Wednesday the 3rd of April. This will impact upon the water quality in the river and surrounding waters for 24 – 48 hours after the incident.
Fairlee is one of the largest pumping stations on the Isle of Wight and was reportedly taken off-line to allow work to be carried out on a main sewer. When switched back on three pumps became blocked with a build-up of non-biodegradable items, such as sanitary products and cleaning wipes, and failed to start resulting in the discharge of raw sewage into the river.
We are becoming increasingly concerned with the frequency at which Southern Water’s systems are failing, this is the third major sewerage system failure in less than 12 months. On the 30th of May 2012 the Foreness Point Sewage Pumping Station near Margate failed, resulting in huge amounts of untreated sewage entering the sea for several days with more than 20 Thanet beaches being closed from the 4th to the 12th of June. And early in September 2012 at Shoreham beach a catastrophic technical error led to almost 40 million litres of untreated sewage being discharged directly into the sea and many people literally being evacuated from the sea for their safety.
We are also troubled by reports that in all cases public warnings were delayed and extremely vague at best. Although an investigation has been launched into the Fairlee pumping station incident by Southern Water and the Environment Agency, SAS believe more must be done to stop preventable incidents like these from occurring and putting the health of water users and the marine environment at risk and call on the Environment Agency to take legal action where necessary.
Surfers Against Sewage are concerned at the impacts upon water quality and will be issuing updates on Facebook and Twitter, as well as informing subscribers to SAS’s Sewage Alert Service via free SMS warning messages. People can also sign up to SAS’s Sewage Alert Service to receive free real time text warnings when sewage is discharging at over 200 UK beaches. SAS would also call on the Isle of Wight communities to think before you flush, sanitary items should never be flushed down the toilet as they can cause blockages in the sewerage system resulting in spills like this.
For any further enquiries or to report sewage pollution incidents in your area contact dom [at] sas [dot] org [dot] uk or call 01872 553001.
I would hope following this incident that Southern Water proactively look at how to mitigate this incident from happening again and review how this can be prevented in the future. On an Island where large numbers of our population are recreational year round water users, whether it be sailing, surfing or swimming and our coastlines and beaches are a major pull for our tourism industry, failures like this are unacceptable. Water companies have a responsibility to maintain infrastructure and ensure they can deal with blockages and capacity.
Matt Harwood, SAS Isle of Wight Rep