The Environment Secretary has met with Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell, the Environment Agency and Southern Water at the utility’s local treatment works.

Theresa Coffey toured the treatment works at Harbour Reach with Caroline and met with Southern Water chief executive Lawrence Gosden and deputy director at the Environment Agency Nick Gray.

The group discussed how Southern Water is meeting strict new environmental laws and regulations introduced by the government. This includes ending the use of storm overflows and tackling misconnections – all with the ambition to improve the town’s seawater.

Lawrence explained sewage treatment only began in Eastbourne in the 1990s following Southern Water building the treatment work. Water quality has improved dramatically since.

He also said Eastbourne’s treatment works have six times the capacity to process the sewage produced by the town. The issue is the sewer system combines rain water and sewage together and in periods of high rainfall this can sometimes exceed processing capacity and a storm overflow will be triggered. If the storm overflow was not used, sewage would end up in our homes, gardens, schools and hospitals.

The solution will come from upgrades in infrastructure and methods to slow the surge of rainwater entering sewers during storms with £8bn of investment planned.

“I would like to thank the secretary of state for visiting our town to see what work is being undertaken – following new government legislation – to improve our seawater,” said Caroline.

“This is a complex issue that will take time and money to sort out but it is led by a government committed to doing so and with tough legislation to back it up.

“Southern Water needs to improve how it handles sewage in times of heavy rain and ensure it doesn’t end up in our seas and it outlined its plan to myself and the minister.

“But, as I have highlighted before, this is one part of the problem and illegal misconnections in our town of sewage into surface water drainage continues to be a problem in our town too.

“There is much to do to solve all these issues and I will continue to keep up the pressure on Southern Water and other interested parties to see real improvements.”