Many of us have witnessed over recent years the gradual increase in the numbers of new houses being developed within the Fairlight and Pett Level catchment areas. During this time, it seems that the authorities have not managed to influence either Southern Water (SW) or the Environment Agency (EA) to install the necessary basic infrastructure to manage the increased volumes of foul and surface water passing into and through the Fairlight and Marsham petty sewer systems.
As a consequence, Councillor Roger Bird and I have held a series of fact-finding discussions with residents of both Fairlight and Pett Level, Romney Marsh internal drainage board, the technical team responsible for managing the Fairlight treatment works and other interested parties.
After careful consideration we concluded that we needed to learn more about how the Environmental Agency and Southern Water authorities co-ordinate their resources with particular reference to:-
- The monitoring of the volume and quality of the water flowing throughout the Marsham and Fairlight sewer systems
- Surface water throughout the Fairlight area being permitted to discharge either into a watercourse, or into the main foul sewer.
- Planning considerations relating to the disposal of waste and surface water for new dwellings.
- Current and future capacity of Fairlight and the Marsham petty sewer systems.
- The responsibility for the on-going maintenance of the Marsham petty sewer with particular reference to the recent slippage to of part of the bank.
With the help and assistance of Rother District Council Officers, a meeting was held on the 12th June with the key players from the relevant agencies. All attendees received advance information listing our concerns.
Brief summary report on the meeting.
In addition to Cllr Bird and myself, there were 12 other attendees including County Councillors for the Marsham area and senior Rother officers. The meeting started at 10.30 and lasted two hours. We were given every opportunity to explain the residents’ anxieties to the agencies and to seek their cooperation in resolving some of the difficulties.
The principle outcomes:-
1) Southern Water did not accept our claim that the Fairlight sewage system was operating beyond its designed parameters. They did however express concern about the amount of surface water entering the system, resulting in the need for sewer “overflows units” to divert the diluted contents of the sewer into the adjacent watercourse.
They agreed to undertake a survey of the flows of surface water in Fairlight area and report back near the end of October. This survey will also include a report on the frequency and duration the “overflow units” are operated.
2) Monitoring for possible pollution problems are undertaken at two locations outside the local sewage processing station every two months by the Environment Agency (EA). Southern Water monitors pollution levels within the sewage processing station on a daily basis. All recordings taken over the last five years have been at an acceptable level. However, at our request, the authorities have agreed to carryout an additional one-off check at a point upstream somewhere near Stream Cottage on the border of Fairlight Parish.
3) We discussed at length the question of the on-going maintenance of the Marsham Petty Sewer. There was general acknowledgement of the importance of this critical waterway and it was acknowledge by the EA that at peak times there is pollution occurring but at an acceptable level. They are also aware that some individual properties are polluting the waterway.
Outside the meeting, Environment Agency representatives informed me that following a recent detailed study they identified the need to de-silt the Marsham Petty sewer, east of Belle Toute to where it meets the Military Canal. I have therefore taken this opportunity and asked them, “without prejudice” if they would kindly repair the bank where slippage has occurred, at the same time. They have since refused.
I now await the outcome of the findings of the Fairlight survey, an update on the monitoring of pollution levels within the Marsham catchment area.