Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell has joined the Environment Agency to take samples of the town’s seawater. 

Caroline and Meads council candidate Nicholas Taylor met up with Simon Moody – the agency’s area director – and sampler Theresa Dean for the weekly collection on Monday that takes place during the bathing season from May to September.

She was told the sea temperature was 21 degrees –  the same as The Algarve. 

The samples are delivered to a specialist lab in Exeter where they are tested for ecoli, Streptococcal bacteria and other matter. 

At the end of last bathing water season Eastbourne’s seas were rated as good and in touching distance of excellent.

The performance of Southern Water and high-profile recent failures however are a very real public concern.

“Since the Victorians, and like other European countries, sewage in the UK has been treated and discharged into the sea to cope with storm overflows. The alternative at this point doesn’t bear thinking about – waste would come back up through plug holes and toilets at home, flood gardens and run down streets. 

“This is all set for change through the government’s Environment Act which for the first time puts new legal duties on companies like our provider, Southern Water, to progressively reverse discharges and invest in new infrastructure.

“This summer’s drought and heavy rain combination created the perfect storm for the run of recent discharges.  Eastbourne’s beaches were not closed but understandably public concern is high.

“Work is taking place all the time to improve water quality and the Government’s Blue Heart Project – delivered by East Sussex County Council has the potential to be a game changer in respect of water catchment. So too is the government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan that will be published next month.

“It was good to see the detail and frequency that our town’s bathing water is monitored by the Environment Agency during the summer months,” said Nicholas. 

“Locally there is also something the Council could do. For those online, there are great apps to reassure water users about sea conditions but for others, a physical, very visible public info system, like a flag or light as they have in other areas, would give a level of reassurance and confidence when going into the water” he added.

Caroline has also signed a letter with Sussex MPs calling on Southern Water to take more action.