Life on the stricken estate which regularly floods with sewage
People living on an estate in Lancing are discontented. They've been forced to put up with frequent sewage leaks which have plagued their street in the past few years. Contractors and sewage tankers are now a regular feature in West Way and Orient Road, but the sewage leaks appear no closer to getting solved despite their regular reoccurrence since October 2021.
Over the past year, multiple leaks have left sewage spewing onto the road, leading to nine separate excavated sections of road in which workers seek to repair and prevent the leaks. The most recent spill, which took place on Saturday (September 10), resulted in multiple tankers appearing to extract the foul smelling sewage from the road. The presence of such trucks, which can weigh up to 30 tonnes, has damaged large sections of the street, leading to constant repairs, and has made life on the estate far from ideal.
With the busy A259 running alongside it, many repairs have to take place at night resulting in noise pollution at all hours of the day. Southern Water said it is "very sorry" for the disruption caused by its works and the multiple bursts from the aging pipes in this area. READ MORE: Southern Water sewage pipe improvement works to cause disruption in Lancing and on nearby A259
Meryl Tobin has lived on West Way for five years and, along with the street's other residents, is fed up. "It has, in the last year, become much more common. It's been terrible, we've had at least five leaks this year," she said. "It leaves a terrible smell, it's horrible; sewage comes virtually across the road. You can't really walk or drive through it as you risk contaminating yourself."
Meryl, whose daughter also lives on the road, added: "They're very old sewers. If they start to do work on one, it seems to cause an issue with something else further down the road. We've had letters from Southern saying they're going to do so-and-so, then they apologise, but they seem to have come to a complete standstill.
There's lots of discontent," said the 74 year-old.Meryl Tobin and her daughter both live on West Way and are fed up with the frequent leaks (Image: Martin Burton/SussexLive)
"That first one has not been finished - that's almost a year old. We have all these pits open but there doesn't seem to be anybody here." Meryl also spoke of how the issues have led to some people calling time on their life in Lancing.
She said: "I'm sick of it now. A few people have moved away and a few houses have been flooded. Some are for sale but they're not getting the prices they should do.
With the flooding, we get people don't really want to buy, but because the house prices are low, some people move in. The people who have sold probably don't have the money to move where they'd like to elsewhere. "One family has since moved back to Ireland.
They had flooding and the sewage right in front of their house. It was near enough completely covered in sewage. "We mostly have to leave our windows.
Thankfully I'm a bit more lucky at my end, as it's not been too bad, but my daughter and those further up can smell it. I'd love it to be sorted for me and for everybody else down here because we're all getting fed up of it now."SussexLive reporter Thomas Fox (left) speaking with Miller Ashton who is desperate for a solution to be found (Image: Martin Burton/SussexLive)
Miller Ashton has lived in Boundary Road for the past three years and has taken a vocal role in ensuring the residents of West Way are given the repairs they deserve. For many people living along the street, there is a shared view that they have been left behind and neglected.
"Until this year, we've had almost no electric or gas works. They're finally giving us fibre optic, [but] we've been left behind. The environmental agency and environmental health won't touch us.
We've had our MP down but he won't speak to the residents and has blocked lots of us on social media. "The last year-and-a-half it has been burst after burst after burst. Even though Southern Water are doing stuff now, they've known about the issues for years," he said.
Southern Water has said "work is continuing - but activity is currently in the fields and not necessarily visible in the neighbourhood". He added: "Someone mentioned the pipes were laid in the 1970s, the new ones they plan to put in should last 26 years. They dig out the road and put this liquid through the pipes and then put hot water through them and it solidifies in the pipes.
It's supposed to seal it - but you can see how old the pipes are.Numerous sewage pipes have burst and need replacing (Image: Martin Burton/SussexLive)
"There's been about 17 bursts in the last 10 years alone, I think we've had nine over the last year. We know when they've burst without even being told - we're used to that smell, it absolutely stinks." Miller, who has five dogs, added: "Half of us don't like walking our dogs down this street any more.
Instead we'll walk down the back alleyway because it's safer and cleaner. "Dogs lick their feet or chew on things and you don't want them to get sick. I would rather walk through a pigsty than walk down this estate sometimes."
Along the road now are seven fenced off areas known as 'pits' which have been excavated to access the pipes beneath the road. Many of these have been open for a considerable amount of time and some have had to be reopened after further leaks.Along the estate and neighbouring field, nine pits have been dug to access the faulty the pipes (Image: Martin Burton/SussexLive)
Miller, along with other residents, has demanded action to make sure the issues are soon resolved. However, he and other residents feel as though their concerns have frequently fallen upon deaf ears.
"It's just been a struggle, it's been so hard to get anyone to help us. The landowners have also dragged their heels and won't do anything - they wanted to build homes on the field behind us but we objected. We're already on a floodplain - we don't want more people to endure the same issues we've already got," said the 25-year-old.
"The first of these recent bursts took place in October 2021 - that pit is still open and is now basically their base of operations. At the time it probably took an hour-and-a-half for anyone to get here to deal with it. The second burst was down the other end of the road - that's been open since around January.
"The only people we really get from Southern Water are their customer service people and we feel sorry for them. We have been asking since at least burst two to have someone high up come down and speak to us to hear our concerns."To make matters worse, the road is below sea level so when it is high tide, seawater seeps through the ground (Image: Martin Burton/SussexLive)
Issues along the road are exacerbated by the low lying nature of the estate. West Way, which is below sea level, regularly floods whenever it is high tide as water spews up from the ground and onto the road.
This has worsened the issues with sewage pipes, too, and complicated the repair process. "One person explained how bad the pipes are: they explained it as if you dropped a mug on the floor and it shattered, that's how brittle they are," said Miller. "It's not going to be a solved problem, all these agencies need to work together to find a long-term solution. If they find a solution to sort out the tidal water issue, we wouldn't have as many leaks as the pipes wouldn't rust.
"The third most recent burst was coming out one woman's drive and spraying all out over the road. It was bubbling through the ground. I think the last burst was at the same time as high tide too, so we had lots of water trying to come out the ground at once.
"Last year we were told the repairs would be completed by summer, then we were told it would be by Christmas, and now they'll probably end up pushing it back again. Some of the contractors have spent their entire year just working on this estate.Constant road works have affected traffic on West Way and the neighbouring A259 which has impacted bus routes (Image: Martin Burton/SussexLive)
"One has been here almost every day since October 2021. I can't give you an answer on what I think Southern Water need to do, as I'm no expert on that, but they can start with a proper apology from the heart - but they know we will fight them and we have fought and will keep fighting.
"We're sick of seeing 'we're extremely sorry and we're hoping to get the work done' - it annoys us. The people living on West Way definitely deserve some proper compensation though." Southern Water issued the following statement to SussexLive in response: "Southern Water is very sorry for the disruption caused by our works and the multiple bursts from the aging pipes in this area.
We've worked very hard to keep customers informed and ensure their health and amenity are protected. "Work is continuing - but activity is currently in the fields and not necessarily visible in the neighbourhood. Our chief customer officer Katy Taylor visited the area and apologised in person.
Her customer teams continue to attend regularly answering any questions not already answered on our website - which is regularly updated with the latest news."
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