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Raw sewage plagues historic oyster harbour as Lib Dems slam inaction

Chichester Harbour, which is used to farm oysters, is a point where raw sewage is poured into the sea
Chichester Harbour, which is used to farm oysters, is a point where raw sewage is poured into the sea

WATERS near a historic oyster fishery have been polluted by raw sewage for thousands of hours.

Chichester Harbour has been rife with oysters for centuries but in 2021, sewage was pumped into the water from one overflow point for 4,996 hours.

In the most recent incident, on August 17, an overflow poured into the harbour for 42 minutes.

Southern Water is under fire after a shocking video showed an overflow pouring sewage into the sea in Seaford last Thursday.

Earlier in the week, 12 other locations in Sussex also had sewage emptied into the sea.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said shellfish are the “forgotten victims” of dumping sewage in the sea.

The Argus: One part of Chichester Harbour
The Argus: One part of Chichester Harbour

One part of Chichester Harbour

“England’s treasured shellfish, our prawn, crayfish, lobsters and crabs, are the forgotten victims of this environmental scandal,” said Mr Farron.

“The past week we’ve seen our beaches closed because of these polluting water companies. All the while, they are raking in billions of pounds in profits and forking out eye-watering bonuses to their CEOs. Frankly, the whole thing stinks.”

National waters containing shellfish were dumped in nearly 29,000 times last year, with the longest event lasting 5,000 hours.

Southern Water was reportedly among the utility companies with the worst records last year.

David Jarrad, chief executive of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, said that sewage being pumped into the sea could lead to a “lack of trust in consumption of shellfish by the consumer” and “short-term closures of areas where oysters, mussels, clams are allowed to be harvested”.

Mr Jarrad told the PA News Agency: “The way we classify our waters around the UK coast, you only need to have two bad readings in the year, and you will be downgraded for 12 months the following year.

The Argus: Oyster have been farmed from Chichester Harbour for hundreds of years
The Argus: Oyster have been farmed from Chichester Harbour for hundreds of years

Oyster have been farmed from Chichester Harbour for hundreds of years

“These pollution events today could be impacting on the sales of that product in 2023.”

But Southern Water said it is permitted by the Environment Agency to activate storm releases in order to “protect home, school and hospitals from flooding”.

A spokesman said: “Southern Water is making huge investments in environmental protection, and we are leading the industry with our pioneering approach to reducing reliance on the system.

The Argus: Sewage in the sea at Seaford. Photo from a video by Martyn Craddock.
The Argus: Sewage in the sea at Seaford. Photo from a video by Martyn Craddock.

Sewage in the sea at Seaford. Photo from a video by Martyn Craddock.

“Our Stormwater Taskforce is running five pathfinder projects which combine Southern Water engineering with nature based solutions and working in partnership.”

The Environment Agency regularly tests and samples water quality on shellfish beds and informs fisheries of when and how they can harvest.

The Liberal Democrats also claimed that monitors which measure the amount of sewage being pumped into the sea are faulty or have not been installed at all.

The party analysed Environment Agency data and said water companies are failing to monitor sewage discharges along the coastline including Sussex seaside resorts.

Mr Farron called it a “national scandal” and said: “These water companies could be guilty of gross negligence by failing to install sewage monitors."

Chichester District Council and the Environment Agency have been contacted for comment.