HUNDREDS of people had to be told to get out of the sea this week after millions of litres of raw sewage was pumped into the water.
A “technical error” at Southern Water’s treatment works in East Worthing on Saturday (September 1) night forced the firm to dump the untreated sewage out to sea – meaning scores of people were inadvertently swimming in potentially-dangerous water from Sunday to Tuesday, including children enjoying the last day of the summer holidays.
On Monday (September 3), red warning flags and posters were put up along beaches from Southwick to Ferring warning swimmers not to enter the sea. Worthing’s beach office also launched its safety boat and told about 250 people to get out of the water.
But the response has been criticised by many bathers, who said they had not seen any warning of the dangers posted on the beach. And when Herald reporters visited several beaches on Tuesday, there was little or no evidence of any signs informing people of what had happened.
Michele Christian’s son Ben and friends were swimming in the sea on Monday when they were warned to get out. The mum, of Honeysuckle Lane, High Salvington, said: “A man came up to us and said to get the children out of the sea as there had been a sewage leak – I was horrified, my son and his friends had been swimming in the sea, and putting their heads under.
“At first I thought they were being over-cautious, but the more I hear about the leak, I am just disgusted. I really think they should have shut the beach off completely, not just put signs up.”
Matt Sawyer, whose children Luca and Paris were playing near the sea on Tuesday, only found out about the potential risk when he was told by a Herald reporter.
He said: “I’m absolutely disgusted – to think my children have just been playing in the sea. Where are the signs? I can’t see any and we walked all along the promenade earlier. It needs to be more obvious.”
Senior foreshore inspector Graham Cherrett said: “We have put up numerous signs and have been patrolling to ensure no one enters the sea, but there’s only so much we can do – many of them have been removed by the public.”
Mr Cherret added he could not section off the beach, to further warn people, as it was “not the beach that was closed, but the sea”.
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