River action group secures improvement pledge from South West Water

River action group secures improvement pledge from South West Water

Screenshot 2023 08 10 132928

Campaigners have secured a water boss’s pledge to improve Lyme Regis’s sewage system ‘without delay’ after concerns were raised about poor water quality and an ‘ecologically dead’ river.
The River Lim Action group met South West Water’s Chief Operating Officer John Halsall to discuss the thousands of hours sewage has been pouring into rivers in the area as a result of an outdated system.
Mr Halsall told the group: “We won’t wait for Ofwat to give us approval before we start the improvement programme. That could take 12 months or more. South West Water are doing a good job on this – I promise you that if you give us a bit of time, we’ll crack on as fast as we can.”
South West Water has commissioned a survey of the whole of Lyme Regis for the first time – showing where each area drains, such as roads, surface water, soakaways, or combined sewer – to see where they need to carry out surface water separation.
Now the funding is in place to start improvements straight away.A spokesman for the group said: “Work carried out at the Uplyme Sewage Treatment Works in May has already led to improved water quality. Continuous monitoring in the river is providing data which supports observations about cleaner water and fewer pongs. South West Water says the improvements mean no more spills when the weather is dry (although they have yet to fix one pipe without a permit discharging into the river).
“The Woodmead Road and Windsor Terrace surface water pipes, which had been leaking contaminated water into the river, are now fixed and other problems – including sewage issues along Marine Parade – have been identified and are being dealt with.”
RLA member Vicki Elcoate said the group was established at the end of 2021 to monitor the River Lim after becoming aware of the sewage problem.
Since then, the river has been declared ‘ecologically dead’ after the amount of human waste overflowing into it tripled in under a year.
She said: “The problem is, the water companies are permitted to discharge sewage into the rivers –that’s what’s wrong about the system.
“In a report in 2022 sewage discharge into the River Lim had gone up three times, while discharges into other rivers had gone down as it was a dry year.
“When we found out over 2,000 hours of sewage had gone into a relatively small river we thought we had got the numbers wrong.”
The group managed to get a pipe leaking into the river cleaned up after reporting the issue ‘twice a week for months and months’.
They are now trying to get Church Beach clean enough to be a designated bathing beach again, after it was un-designated because of pollution in 2016.
The group say an upgrade of the sewage treatment works would resolve a lot of the issues.
Liz Davis of the RLA told South West Water: “The system was designed for up to 16,000 people in 1991, now there are up to 40,000 in the summer. We also have more houses now, putting pressure on the system. Whilst our group appreciates that much is being done, we will continue to work with and put pressure on South West Water to address the significant problems that persist.”

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