Sir George, a former resident of St Mary Bourne, has become increasingly worried by the lack of progress in resolving the problems that confront residents of the village, where raw sewage has been pumped out of the sewers into the river. "They are having to put up with a problem that was solved in London in the 1850's"
He has written to the Chairman of Southern Water, asking for the necessary investment to finance a sustainable solution - see below.
Mr Bob Thian
Chairman, Southern Water
Sussex BN13 3NX 04 May 2007
Sewer in St Mary Bourne
I am increasingly concerned by the lack of progress in resolving the problems that confront my constituents in St Mary Bourne, who are not getting from Southern Water the waste water service they are paying for and are entitled to.
This relates to a problem that originated when asbestos cement pipes were poorly laid in the early 1960’s. Sewer infiltration began in the mid to late nineties and the situation has deteriorated since then with serious reoccurrences in 2001, 2003 and 2007. The effects upon my constituents are backed-up domestic WC’s, a contaminated river, a polluted river bed and spilled raw sewage in public and private places together with a background of noise and smell.
The sewer system through the Bourne Valley is severely infiltrated by the normal rise of groundwater levels during the season of January to June. This depends on rainfall during the autumn months. Having lived in the parish of St Mary Bourne myself it looks to me that the problem of surcharging of the sewer through infiltration happens under perfectly normal conditions and has little to do with the weather and cannot continue to be termed as an emergency.
I have been told by the chairman of the Parish Council that at a public meeting on 13 February 2007 your waste water area manager, Mr Jim Thomas, admitted for the first time that the sewer through St Mary Bourne was faulty and that one of a number of possible solutions to rectify this would be the replacement of the pipes. At the same meeting Mr Thomas also announced that Southern Water contractors would be able to produce a design solution within 2 months.
At a further public meeting on 28 March 2007, Mr Thomas admitted that the cost of tankering and overpumping of raw sewage into the river had probably cost as much as a main sewer replacement.
At the next public meeting on 10 April 2007 a Southern Water representative introduced your contractors ‘4 D’. Neither the Southern Water representative or Mrs Andrea Jowett of ‘4 D’ were able to answer any of the major questions raised by the public. Furthermore, your contractor ‘4 D’ announced that they would need another 6 months to survey the problem before ‘a design solution could be delivered’. ‘4 D’s’ terms of reference were not reassuring as they steered the contractor towards an immediate ‘patching-up’ operation rather than a long-term main sewer replacement.
At this point the Parish Council decided to postpone any further public meetings with Southern Water until they had more constructive information to give. Another letter was sent to your waste water area manager expressing the public’s anger, and concluded that only a greater sense of urgency by Southern Water in putting a repair programme in place would avoid a repeat crisis in 2008.
Householders are particularly angry over Southern Water’s assurance, in 2003, that to a large extent the private laterals were to blame for the sewage problem. I attended this meeting, when Southern water were given the benefit of the doubt about the cause of the problems. The Borough Council then spent £15,000 on a survey and many property owners had to spend thousands of pounds in repairing their laterals in 2003/2004. As we now know, in 2007, these repairs appeared to have had little impact as is demonstrated by the severe infiltration problem experienced again this season. I have been to the pumping site near Gangbridge Lane, and found it difficult to believe this was 21st century England.
Over the last ten years the community and Parish Council have vigorously campaigned for the problem to be resolved with little constructive response from Southern Water. All too often they have reverted to using OFWAT or the Environment Agency as a shield. I am more than happy to intervene with OFWAT, if this would unlock a solution.
However, I understand that your capital expenditure plan for the period 2005 to 2010 includes funding for the repair of the sewer along the Bourne Valley. I believe this programme should be implemented forthwith.