Relief as Hastings passes tough new bathing water standards

The floating vegetated islands at Alexandra Park SUS-150529-094813001
The floating vegetated islands at Alexandra Park SUS-150529-094813001

The town’s bathing water has passed tough new quality standards with flying colours.

Southern Water, the Environment Agency, the Hastings and Rother Voluntary Action Groups and Hastings Borough Council joined forces to tackle various sources of contamination which were putting the town at risk of failing tough new water quality standards.

Together they found and fixed numerous problems to help the town’s bathing water pass the tightened standards contained in the revised European Bathing Water Directive – which are twice as tough as previous years.

The bathing water, which had been predicted to be classed as ‘poor’, now passes the new standard and is classed as ‘good’.

A major source of contamination was found to be misconnections – when foul sewers carrying wastewater from homes to treatment works are wrongly connected into surface water pipes through which rainwater is released into the sea.

Southern Water’s contractors MWH and WERM lifted more than 2,000 manholes and checked more than 1,200 properties in a bid to fix the problem.

Surveys found misconnections at 98 properties – these included dishwashers, washing machines and sinks and 22 toilets.

The team also upgraded manholes shared by wastewater and surface water pipes which can be a source of contamination during heavy rain.

Southern Water has so far invested more than £3 million in the work and further surveys are now being carried out in north east Hastings.

Details of all the misconnections found were passed to the council so they could contact homeowners to arrange for them to be put right.

At the same time, the Environment Agency and the council set about cleaning the Alexandra Park stream.

The work included the installation of floating vegetated islands in ponds linked to the stream to help clean the water that flows out to sea.

Helping communicate this wide-ranging project to the people of Hastings was Clean Seas Please – a community led campaign managed by Hastings Voluntary Action and Rother Voluntary Action.

With support from the Environment Agency and Southern Water, volunteers from Clean Seas Please held a series of high profile events across the town.

The wide-ranging and successful campaign focused on encouraging people to check their domestic plumbing for misconnections and to only flush the three Ps – pee, poo and paper – everything else should go in the bin.

Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd said: “When I heard in August 2013 that Hastings may fail the higher bathing water quality standards, I was determined to ensure that the town would not be required to put up warning notices along the beach as this would severely damage the town’s economy, which relies heavily on tourism.

“I convened the first of many regular multi-agency meetings in October that year, emphasising the absolute necessity of meeting the more stringent standards in time.

“I am therefore delighted to hear that the combined and sustained efforts of all concerned have been so successful in ensuring that the bathing water quality in Hastings is now classified as good under the new more stringent standards.”

Hastings Borough Council’s lead member for environment, Cllr Warren Davies said: “Having clean, safe bathing water is vital to us as a seaside town so this is very good news indeed.

“It demonstrates what can be achieved when partners work together and we will continue to do this so that our bathing water quality can be further protected.

“A major source of polluted water was a stream which runs through Alexandra Park out onto the beach.

“To address this we introduced reed beds and floating vegetated islands that naturally filter contaminants out of the water before it leaves the park and reaches the beach.”

Richard O’Callaghan, coastal environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: “It is great news for Hastings but it’s crucial that we continue to work in partnership to address the effect that pollution is having on bathing water quality.

“Having quality beaches and bathing water is not only good for the water environment, but also for tourism and local economies too.”

John Spence, head of water quality and environment from Southern Water, said: “This is fantastic news for Hastings and demonstrates just how successful this collaborative way of working can be.

“We were fortunate to have the support of the town’s MP Amber Rudd who helped drive the collaboration.

“We are really pleased to have played our part in helping the town protect its bathing water and meet the new standards for water quality.”

Jan Cutting, head of services and projects at Rother Voluntary Action, said: “It has been a great pleasure to work with our partners on this project.

“We believe that the great news today shows the benefit of good teamwork and the will and enthusiasm of the whole community in Hastings to make a change in what we do that will benefit us all.”

To find out how to check your own property for misconnections, visit www.connectright.org

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