OUT IN THE FIELD: Annemarie Field – You can’t put glitter on a piece of raw sewage

SUS-190730-131623001
SUS-190730-131623001

Everyone makes mistakes. I get that. And the Lord himself knows I have made a few. But the latest faux pas at Poo Castle, the Southern Water waste treatment works in Langney Point, has raised the bar quite considerably. Last Saturday morning, something went very, very wrong at the site and due to a complete power failure, millions of litres of untreated urine and faeces were allowed to flow out into the sea from the outfall pipes where treated matter is normally disposed of. That’s a lot of “untreated material” which then promptly made its way with the tide back onto the beaches and prompted a warning to bathers not to swim because of “sewage pollution”. While all this was going on Southern Water hastily arranged for some power to be brought to the site and by the afternoon there were more generators than you could shake a stick at. We have been unable to ascertain exactly how many millions of litres of the stuff was making its way into the English Channel because Southern Water won’t tell us. It was the Environment Agency that informed the media it happened over a 10 hour period. I am not sure at what capacity the brown stuff was flowing on Saturday, but a similar leak at Worthing treatment works in 2017 saw 17 million litres of it pumped into the sea during a five hour period. That leak follows a similar incident at the same station back in 2012 when 40 million litres of sewage was released into the sea, leading to beaches along a 10-mile stretch to be closed for six days. Southern Water was prosecuted in that instance and fined £160,000 with £27,000 costs. In all, Southern, responsible for the public wastewater collection and treatment in not only Sussex but Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and Kent too, has been fined a record £126 million for sewage spills. And that’s not all. The water watchdog OFWAT found the company systematically covered up sewage spills between 2010 and 2017 and criticised “failings in corporate culture and governance”. And then it was revealed that during that period, it recorded mostly healthy profits and, for six of those years, was run by Matthew Wright, who received almost £2million in pay in 2014. Oh dear, oh dear. It looks like Southern is in the brown stuff itself. And if it hasn’t already, I’d suggest the company invests in some giant generators to keep on site should a power outage happen again. And be upfront about what is going on. As well we all know, you can’t polish a... piece of solid waste.

On a recent morning stroll along the prom, I noticed the Bandstand being virtually propped up in places and looking a little worse for wear. I had a snoop about and asked the council why it is looking so unloved. I’m told there will be a “thorough investigation of works needed during the winter but in the meantime urgent maintenance has been carried out to allow all performances to take place during the summer”. I hope the council has enough dosh in the bank following the Congress refurbishment to pay for what clearly needs doing at our iconic seafront landmark.