Warning over ‘toxic gardens’ from sewage pollution

A polluted stream in Sayers Common SUS-160906-141159001
A polluted stream in Sayers Common SUS-160906-141159001

A warning has gone out from conservationists that a trend for building new housing estates without mains sewage will result in increased pollution and toxic gardens.

The alert is being sounded by the Campaign to Protect Rural England which says that a growing number of developers are building rural homes with ‘packaged treatment plants’ - which discharge waste into local ditches and streams - instead of mains sewage.

Ian Simmons, of Reeds Lane, Sayers Common, has one such ‘plant’ at his home which he says fails on average every 18 months and pumps out raw smelly sewage into a stream at the end of his garden.

He said: “The stream unfortunately goes milky white with raw sewage and obviously kills all the local wildlife. It is near to our vegetable garden and it makes you think, ‘I don’t want those vegetables’.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England says that developers in other parts of Sussex are currently planning to use a similar treatment plant for larger developments. It says Wealden Council has been bombarded by similar applications over the past few months.

But Ian Simmons warned: “Don’t do it. It’s madness. You will just pollute your local environment because they will fail and you are going to have pollution every time.”

Kia Trainor, director of CPRE Sussex says the problem is exacerbated in the Wealden area due to a near doubling of the district’s housing targets since its local Plan was first adopted in 2013.

Developers need a permit from the Environment Agency before installing the plants. But, said Kia: “The most sustainable solution to manage the waste water from these new homes is to connect to the mains system.”

A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “The Environment Agency received reports regarding issues with a sewage treatment plant on Reeds Lane, Sayers Common, in 2008, 2011 and most recently in 2016.

“On each occasion the Environment Agency has required the owners of the treatment plant to rectify issues with the plant. We continue to work with the owners to ensure a fully treated effluent is discharged in compliance with their discharge permit, ensuring it does not cause pollution of the watercourse at the rear of Reeds Lane.

“We understand that the owners of the sewage treatment plant are also continuing to investigate connecting the properties onto the foul sewerage system.”

Mid Sussex District Council development manager Nick Rogers said: “The Environment Agency is the lead authority on environmental issues and we consult with them to obtain their advice when we receive a major planning application that includes a drainage system that does not connect to the main sewer.

“A permit from the Environment Agency may also need to be obtained if they wish to use this method of foul disposal. Full Government guidance can be found online at www.gov.uk/permits-you-need-for-septic-tanks/overview.”