Protecting Essex Beaches from Sewage Overflow

sewage on beaches

If there’s one thing that Essex is blessed with, it’s a stunning coastline. That’s complemented by an array of fantastic beaches, and holidaymakers from near and far flock to the sands, especially in sunny weather.

The summer holidays may now be almost over, but people visit our beaches all year round and it concerns us to hear so many stories of our coastal beauty spots being ruined by sewage and other contaminants. We’re not scaremongering here – in July, people were advised not to swim in the sea at two Essex beaches and in August, people were warned not to go into the water at a further five beaches, due to contamination from sewage. Leigh Bell Wharf, at Southend-on-Sea, was on both lists.

Finally, just at the recent August bank holiday weekend, some 150 people reported feeling ill after visiting Essex beaches. At the time of writing, water test results were pending.

Why is this happening?

There are a number of reasons why beaches can become inhospitable and seas can become no-go areas, including:

  • Weather – flash flooding can cause sewers to overflow and flood into the sea.
  • Fatbergs – blockages comprising wipes, hair, fat and other obstructions can block sewer pipes.
  • Pigeon droppings – water quality can be adversely affected by faecal contamination, something that has been a particular problem for Groyne 41 at Clacton.
  • Pipe issues – cracked or leaking pipes can allow seepage. Also, roots are attracted to sewer pipes as they offer water and nutrients. They can get into cracks, making them worse, then grow inside the pipe, causing further damage and blockages.


How Can We Help?

A bit like sorting out our recycling, we can all do our bit to help maintain the quality of our beaches. Here are some tips:

Check our Fine To Flush list. If you use wipes – baby wipes, cleaning wipes, make-up removal wipes, or any other kind – check the packet to see if it says whether they’re flushable. If they aren’t, don’t flush them. And even if they are … don’t flush them! The same applies to paper tissues – they might look as though they’ll break down like toilet paper, but they don’t. They hold together and potentially cause problems further down the line.

Report overflowing sewers immediately, to either Anglian Water or Thames Water, as appropriate.

Work with environmental charities such as Surfers Against Sewage, who are “galvanising communities and inspiring people to protect our beautiful coastlines”.

Blue Flag Beaches

It’s not all doom and gloom, however – just this year, six Essex beaches were awarded coveted Blue Flag status. The team at Anglia Drain Doctor are huge fans of the Essex coastline and want to see them retain their high-quality recognition.

Anglia Drain Doctor works with various local councils to ensure drains are cleared regularly. CCTV drain surveys and preventative maintenance all help avoid a crisis.

If you spot drainage issues in your area, contact us as soon as possible; your action could help preserve our beaches and beauty spots, keeping them pristine and perfect for wildlife and people alike, whatever the season. 

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