Bathing water quality in Worthing has been on the decline for the last five years, according to Environment Agency figures.
Sea water off the Worthing coast, measured from a station at the end of Heene Road, is rated ‘sufficient’ – the minimum legal requirement.
The ‘sufficient’ rating has stood since 2017, declining from ‘good’ in 2016 and ‘excellent’ in 2014.
Water company Southern Water said it had recently discovered some household sewers had been wrongly draining out into the coastal water.
A spokesman said: “Bathing water quality can be affected by a wide range of factors, including run off from farmland, misconnected sewer pipes and fouling by dogs or birds, for example. This means it’s important that a number of organisations, such as the Environment Agency, local councils, water companies and others work closely together on this issue.
“Our customers have told us that playing our part in improving our region’s bathing waters is a priority they want us to really focus on.
“That’s led to Worthing receiving major investment to improve the quality of bathing water, as part of our £31.5 million bathing water enhancement programme (BWEP).
“Recently we’ve been tracking down household sewer outlets which have been misconnected to the local surface water drainage system that releases to the local coastline. Plus, we’ve spent £250,000 on jet cleaning major sewers in the town to make sure the network can work as effectively as possible, reducing the risk of pollution, especially during wet weather.
“As part of our BWEP work we are meeting with Worthing Borough Council and the Environment Agency to discuss our ongoing investigations and to work together to resolve any issues we have found – such as, for example, the misconnections we have found in Worthing.”
Environment Agency findings show levels of E.Coli bacteria, often found in the intestines and faeces of people and animals, generally spike during the summer months.
The last two years, 2018 and 2019, have shown low levels but 2017 saw a significant increase in E.Coli levels – almost three times the usual amount during July.
Litter was not deemed to be a problem by the agency during the testing period 2015 to 2018, which described levels as not being ‘sufficient to be objectionable’.
Worthing’s water quality was found to be lacking in comparison to its neighbours along the coast.
Lancing, Shoreham and Littlehampton were all rated as having ‘good’ quality bathing water, while further along in both directions, Southwick, Hove and Middleton-On-Sea can boast ‘excellent’ bathing water.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said the water remained safe for visitors but work was underway to address the decrease in quality.
“Worthing is among 98 per cent of almost 400 locations across England meeting tough legal standards on bathing water quality, which is better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution,” a spokesman said.
“That’s good news for swimmers, paddlers and the millions of other visitors to our resorts.
”The Environment Agency works with other agencies and the water industry to continually improve results. We’ve increased monitoring of waste pipes along the Worthing coastline to make detecting pollution easier, and are confident standards will only improve further still.
“Anyone planning a trip to the beach can check bathing water quality around England online at https://environment.data.gov.uk/bwq/profiles/.”