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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ben Barry

Sea swimmer claims water company’s ‘disgusting’ sewage dumps left her bedridden

Simon Edwards / SWNS

A woman who was ill for a week after swimming in the sea has blamed a water company for dumping sewage.

Julia Walker, 43, a social worker from Shoreham, West Sussex, is a regular swimmer and went for a dip one morning in September.

She headed down to Shoreham beach for a swim and later complained that her kidneys were in such pain that she was unable to stand up.

Julia then called a doctor who asked her to come in for tests, which later confirmed she was suffering from a bacterial kidney infection.

She said: “I felt really rotten, I was bedridden and my whole body was shaking.

“I went on the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) website after my swim and sure enough there had been an outpouring that day.”

Julia added: “I know I should have checked before swimming but it was a summer’s day and there hadn’t been any stormy weather.

“I am much more cautious in winter.”

SAS alleges that Southern Water, the water provider for Sussex, is the “worst offending” in the UK for “dry spills”.

A dry spill is when sewage is discharged into the ocean when there has been no rain.

In stormy weather, rain can overwhelm combined sewer and drainage systems.

In these circumstances, Southern Water says it releases storm overflows “to protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding”.

(Simon Edwards / SWNS)

Julia said she is now “fearful” of swimming in the sea and it took her two months to get back in the water.

“Now I only swim with my head above water for fear of becoming ill again,” she said.

“Southern Water are dumping huge amounts of sewage and it is impacting all of us.”

She thinks storm overflows are happening “all the time” and are being used as a cheaper option to dispose of waste.

She added: “I think it is disgusting that they are allowed to do this and the longer they can get away with it the longer they will continue to do it.”

Since falling ill, Julia stopped swimming for six weeks and is still not swimming with her head under the water as a result.

Southern Water said: “We are transparent in sharing details of any storm releases entering the sea – made up of up to 95 per cent rainwater at times of increased pressure on our combined sewage network.”

“We were sorry to hear that a member of the public became unwell after swimming in the sea.

“Whilst Southern Water takes bathing water quality extremely seriously, we are only one custodian of our coastline. We work closely with a range of partners including local councils, highways departments and the agricultural sector to enhance and protect our beaches.”

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