Water outage will have huge impact, says councillor

A water outage affecting 31,000 East Sussex properties will have a "huge" impact on businesses already struggling with the cost of living, a county councillor has said.

Work to remove and replace a broken pipe has continued overnight, as thousands remain without water with families rationing bottled supplies and some collecting rain water.

A burst pipe in isolated woodland has impacted supplies since Thursday but Southern Water apologised and said it hoped supplies would return by Sunday.

East Sussex County Council's Godfrey Daniel said the water company's reputation "couldn't be much lower" and called for doorstep deliveries of bottled water.

A digger removing earth around a water pipe
The burst pipe is in Keeper's Wood [Southern Water]

'Just want it to end'

The Labour councillor said one hotel in Hastings had resorted to flushing toilets with sea water.

"They should put bottles of water outside everybody's door, we pay enough water rates," he said.

"The state of our country, where you can't turn on the tap and expect to see water."

Mr Daniel called on Southern Water to acknowledge the issue in people's water bills.

"The impact on the town will be drastic, a lot of people will lose a lot of money," he said. "These businesses are struggling as it is with the cost of living crisis."

Southern Water said disruption was expected to continue over the weekend and apologised to customers in St Leonards, Hastings and rural areas around Westfield.

Stuart Ledger, the company's chief financial officer, told BBC Radio Sussex a replaced pipe was now feeding water back to the treatment works.

The burst pipe in Keeper's Wood, near the A21, needed to be removed and replaced.

Mr Ledger said work was being done to get water to 6,000 people on a priority service register.

Lesley Arshad, who is disabled, said she had been left off the company's priority list, despite receiving a letter confirming she was on it last year.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that when she rang to ask for water, she was told she would get some but "not sure when".

Southern Water said it had been in touch with Ms Arshad and would be delivering water to her on Saturday.

The company added: "We're sorry that some of our customers have found it difficult to access our bottled water stations due to heavy traffic, and that there have been some delays with deliveries of water. Our delivery drivers are stuck in the same traffic jams but are on their way."

'Collecting rain water'

One woman who lives in sheltered housing in St Leonards and uses a Zimmer frame had six bottles of water stolen after 12 were delivered to her flat, her daughter said.

Jakki Blackman, 49, said her mother Christine Lawton, 72, "couldn’t get to a water station if she needed to”, adding: “It’s heartbreaking because she’s upset and she gets panicked and anxious."

Marketing consultant Rob O'Connor, 47, also in St Leonards, said his family had been collecting rain water to flush the toilet, and his children, who had to deal with Covid restrictions during the pandemic, were facing disruption again.

After queuing at a water collection point for an hour, he said Southern Water's response had been inadequate and they "could have done a lot more".

A blue plastic pipe surrounded by mud
Southern Water said good progress was being made on replacing a burst pipe [Southern Water]

Bottled water stations at Tesco, Asda, Sea Road and Hastings Academy are open.

Hastings resident Jon Smalldon, 46, said his family had 24 two-litre bottles which they had to ration.

He said there was frustration across the town and this was "not the first time Southern Water has caused problems for Hastings".

He said: "We all just want it to end."

The bank holiday weekend outage will impact events such as the annual four-day Jack in the Green Festival and May Day Bike Run.

Mr Daniel said the events see an estimated 40,000 visitors.

"This weekend is one of the biggest, usually we get 25,000 bikers coming on the same day as the Jack in the Green celebration.

"It's always the busiest day for the hotels, pubs, the restaurants, this will have a huge impact."

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