‘Terrible shame’ as sewage near Barcombe Mills bathing point revealed

TJ and Tommy Schofield kayaking at Barcombe Mills last year

Lewes resident Brian Schofield, who often kayakes on site with his sons TJ, 12, and Tommy, 10, said it was “a terrible shame”.

After heavy rains, water companies are allowed to discharge wastewater into rivers or the sea through storm water outlets to prevent it from flowing back into homes and streets – a measure that should be reported to the Environment Agency.

Data released by the Environment Agency last week showed that a Southern Water wastewater treatment facility near Barcombe Mills, known as Barcombe New Water Treatment Works, dumped sewage into the river 78 times in 2020.

Brian Schofield at Barcombe Mills

These spills lasted 962 hours in total.

Another nearby facility, named Barcombe Cross, which in 2019 spilled 77 times into the river, reported no overflows in 2020.

This was due to a “signal or connection problem” with his surveillance system.

Mr Schofield said Barcombe Mills was “a great resource for the community”, especially during the pandemic.

Playing at the river

“During the lockdown it was really popular, really well used,” he said. “It was just a really nice place for people to be outside and able to socially distance themselves.

“So it’s a real shame that at the moment it’s not always safe to swim up there.

“I hope Southern Water realizes that they are damaging what is a great resource for the community.

“It’s a great place, so many people want to Stand Up Paddle now, so many people want to swim in nature.

Brian in his kayak

“These are the kinds of things that are the future of East Sussex – high quality of life, outdoor experiences.

“For them, damaging it isn’t just damaging the environment, it’s damaging the economy. “

He wants to see the Barcombe Mills area listed as a designated swimming site.

This would mean that the water would be subjected to the same rigorous public health tests as coastal waters.

“It would be amazing, it would be the best result,” said Schofield. “He would recognize that this is a place where people swim.”

There are currently 12 inland bathing waters in England, all of which are lakes, although a river in West Yorkshire will become England’s first to be designated as a bathing site from May.

A Southern Water spokesperson said: “Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) storm releases contain a mixture of very dilute rainwater and wastewater.

“These releases are authorized by the Environment Agency and are done for one reason only: to protect homes and businesses from flooding.”

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