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Legally permitted sewage in Southend's waters - will this ever change?

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

For those uninitiated in the world of sewage, the reason there is, and will continue to be, sewage flowing out into Southend’s sea is because the pipes that take down household waste is shared with the storm drains.

For those who invented the sewage system they were pioneers and revolutionaries. Granted, they emptied the sewage into the rivers and seas, however, it was still an ambitious feat of civil engineering that probably prevented countless human diseases and death.

It’s hard to imagine life before our most taken-for-granted infrastructure, but it would have been a ground-breaking, mind-breaking idea that would have required finances most might have been unwilling to part with.

Fortunately for us they went with it. Built for the population at the time, with the technology they had available, and with the cities, towns and villages as they were - it was the exact solution required.

How can people be expected to anticipate all eventualities?

For all they knew populations in the future may have decreased and what they put in place did in fact account for potential excess growth. Who would have thought we would have doubled the population?!

Combined Sewage Overflow (CSOs)

An adaptation to the one pipe system is the Combined Sewage Overflow System. (Anglian Water explains in 2 and half minutes how it works As you can/will see, as soon as there is a deluge of rainwater, it combines with sewage to surpass the height of the ‘dam’ that normally directs just the sewage down to the waste plants.

At the time of building it was no doubt a great improvement than to allow the system to flood homes and businesses, but ultimately, in the words of Anglian Water, ‘sewage systems aren’t built like this anymore’. For all it's ingenuity it has has served merely to prolong a system that is designed to pollute.

The single solution is to separate the pipes for sewage and rainwater

The fix though, is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions with Anglian Water tacitly suggesting there would be a huge cost to the customer to pay for it.

For the water companies it is perfectly understandable that they cannot fix this problem overnight, but the question is whether it is on their board minutes that agreement to change is scheduled in.

For the government, the Environment Agency legally allows them to pump sewage into the rivers and seas to ‘protect homes’, and the Conservatives recently voted down an amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have forced water companies to upgrade the sewer network to stop pumping raw sewage into rivers and the sea.

It is a matter of political will and priority, but at this time it does not seem to be a big enough issue to get them elected. There is no government directive that all single pipe sewage systems will be redundant by a set year.

Consequences of lack of change

Last year we had exactly the same sewage overflow that would almost certainly put off any tourists that might have visited. Thousands of jobs are at stake here as people will not only fail to return, but speak openly at just how horrific Southend is to visit.

Lockdown, though an inexcusable, ill-conceived, borderline criminal offence, did expose Southend to the country as beaches were the final salvation for a freedom-starved populace.

And when people ask whether Southend becoming a City has or will make a difference, we have, at the very least, been national news on more occasions than we could ever have hoped for.

The word has spread and the local economy has benefited as we have experienced the droves of people coming in from all corners of the UK. To lose this momentum because of sewage is just downright neglect.

And how about us - the residents?

Residents across the city have cited many experiences of swimming unwittingly in sewage. It is more dangerous than many people realise resulting in all manner of serious health issues.

The truth is we are best advised not to utilise our best, free fitness and health opportunity. Southend-on-sea is, for those concerned with their well-being, is out of bounds.

As Anglian Water have stated that people should make their own educated decision whether they should go into the water.

We should be a city built from the foundations of our water. We should have an endless stream of Olympic swimmers and watersports people! Instead, if we are left with a water that is effectively poison, and a culture that has little to do with 'on-sea', aside from the odd paddle in the summer.

Private or Public Ownership

Aside from executives and shareholders taking more than their fair share - which most certainly needs to be addressed - the industry itself (as in the people that actually do the work) runs with the same people. Whether public or private, laws can be made to suitably address anything we need to address if the will is there. Therefore, if there is fault, it will always be with the government that has created the environment in which we have to work. Unfortunately people who do not live here voted to accept sewage in Southend waters.

Generations before us had already conquered this problem. They had the vision, drive and ingenuity to deliver something that had never been done before. Today it seems - similar to asking for weekly bin collections - that the simple things in life are just too much to ask for. And so any party that introduces a policy of zero sewage in our waters might be termed dreamers. As absurdly ambitious as it sounds, that will indeed be the intention of the Southend Confelicity party.

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