John Ryall reports from the protest at St Leonards
Protestors have gathered on the Sussex coast tonight to voice their anger at Southern Water for repeatedly polluting the sea and rivers. Incidents that have done serious environmental damage, closed beaches and cost seaside businesses millions in lost trade.Organisers say tonight's protest is just the start. Many more are being planned. Southern Water has a long history of pollution offences and this year has been the worst in the company's history.In June, leaks from Southern Water treatment plants closed Thanet beaches for several days, hitting summer trade.
In July, Southern Water was fined a record 90 million pounds for dumping billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea over 6 years to avoid financial penalties and the cost of upgrading infrastructure.In the same month there was a major sewage spill at Bulverhythe, between Hastings and Bexhill-on-Sea. Then, this month, pollution from a treatment plant at Swalecliffe closed beaches there.
Protestors have their say
Protestor Angela Gunning, says: "It seems to me like there's a lot of people making money. This is a utility, what we need, why is it being used as a money making thing with people being paid way too much money".
"It's money that should be spent on the service and making sure the pipes are fit for purpose".
Protestor Matthew McDonnell, says: "I think we need to take the profit motive out of something we cannot do without. This is an essential service and they have a monopoly over it. We have no choice but to use Southern Water"
"There's no other way of getting rid of our waste or getting our own drinking water. The profit motive needs to be out of water provision and our water quality needs to be the absolute priority".
Cllr Paul Barnett Deputy Leader, Hastings Council, Lab
Cllr Paul Barnett, Deputy Leader of Hastings Council, says: "This is quite a turn-out for a last minute demonstration. It shows the strength of feeling against Southern Water at the moment".
"I think we've got to the stage with privatised water companies that we have to say enough is enough".
Andy Dickenson reports from Southern Water's headquarters at Worthing in Sussex
Dr Alison Hoyle, Head of Risk & Compliance, Southern Water, says: "We're really sorry for our customers' disruption".
"The cause of the problem was a broken pipe and we've been in the process of the repair and the recovery since that time".
"The Thanet incident was associated with a lightning strike to the works which took out some of the control mechanisms of the works"
"There's been a lot of changes since the historical events of up to 2015, there's been an awful lot of change since then. We have a new executive team, a new CEO since 2017, we've made huge changes to our internal structure, our culture and our controls".
"There can always be failures like the broken in assets like a break to a sewer pipe. That doesn't mean we aren't working really hard to imbed those improvements to lift our performance for our customers and the environment".
"We're investing two billion pounds in the next four years on our pipes, our sewers and our pumping stations to really drive that performance".