Council motion targets Southern Water’s ‘shocking track record’

Photo of Councillor Matthew Bird

Lewes District Council has put more pressure on Southern Water after councillors passed a motion demanding answers on how the water company intends to put a stop to illegal discharges of raw sewage in the district.

Councillor Matthew Bird, Cabinet Member for Sustainability, said:

“Southern Water was fined £90 million for the illegal and deliberate discharge of billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea off Sussex, Kent and Hampshire and £126 million for not operating a number of wastewater treatments works properly.

“We’ve now seen data that shows over 600 sewage overspills occurred in Lewes district in 2020. 

 “It’s a shocking track record, yet the new chief executive has been awarded a £550,000 bonus.  While Ian McAulay is enjoying his good fortune, perhaps he can tell us why his company has leaked raw sewage into the Bevern, a major trout stream that runs across Plumpton, and how he will stop it from happening again elsewhere in Lewes district?”

Proposed by Councillor Bird and seconded by Councillor Laurence O’Connor, the Motion requires Southern Water to explain how it will safeguard the River Ouse, its tributaries and the coastal waters of Lewes District.

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Leader of Lewes District Council, will write to the Chief Executive of Southern Water with a series of questions about sewage leaks in Lewes district and what assurances he can give about work he is doing to prevent them.  Councillor Nicholson will also ask the Environment Agency to reverse its decision to introduce a waiver to allow water companies, including Southern Water, to avoid having to go through the third stage in the treatment of sewage if the company does not have the right chemicals due to driver shortages.

Councillor Bird added:

“We are in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency and Southern Water’s failure to reinvest in its infrastructure and ensure that it is resilient to climate change threatens us all.”