East Sussex residents ‘frustrated’ and rationing water due to outage

Residents in East Sussex have expressed their “frustration” after some 31,000 properties have been left without water.

Southern Water said the disruption in St Leonards-on-Sea and some areas of Hastings, due to a burst water main, started on Thursday and is expected to continue into Sunday.

The water outage has left residents using bottled water supplied by Southern Water from four collection points around the area, with many rationing their supplies as the issue continues.

The company said it was “deeply sorry” for the loss of the water supply in the area and that it is delivering bottled water to more than 6,000 customers on its priority services register.

Jakki Blackman, 49, said her elderly mother, Christine Lawton, 72, had six of her 12 water bottles “stolen” after they were delivered to her doorstep but she was not made aware of it.

Ms Blackman said her mother, who lives in sheltered housing in St Leonards, has mobility issues and uses a zimmer frame, was feeling “anxious” and “panicked”.

“It was all a bit of a nightmare and she’s not in a very good place at the moment,” Ms Blackman, who lives in Wallington, Surrey, told the PA news agency.

“She was indoors and they left 12 bottles of water outside her flat door but nobody knocked and she didn’t even know it was there.

“She was taking a cab to the shops and thought that she would take the bottles in when she got back, but six of those had gone missing by the time she got home.

“So she’s got six bottles of water now to last however long.”

Ms Blackman added that her mother “couldn’t get to a water station if she needed to” and “couldn’t carry 12 bottles of water back home”.

“It’s heartbreaking because she’s upset and she gets panicked and anxious and I can do absolutely nothing except from reassure her over the phone,” she said.

“There’s a lot of elderly people around there and that’s my main concern, those like my mum who don’t have relatives very near.

“It’s quite worrying that a lot of these elderly people will be left with nothing.”

Jon Smalldon, 46, who has lived in Hastings for 10 years, said his family have 24 two-litre bottles of water which they are having to ration.

He told PA: “We have a couple of dogs and a cat as well so they’re now included in the rationing.

“Across the town there’s frustration that this has happened, it’s not the first time Southern Water has caused problems for Hastings and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

“We all just want it to end and we want to know when the pipe will be fixed and when it’s going to be back to normal.”

Rob O’Connor, a 47-year-old marketing consultant living in St Leonards, told PA how the water outage has impacted his two children, aged six and 11, as their school was forced to close on Friday.

“The kids were off school on Friday so there’s a certain amount of disruption around that,” he said.

“If it has to shut on Tuesday I’ll be extremely upset because that’s too much disruption.

“My 11-year-old has dealt with so much in primary school with the Covid restrictions and this seems like it should be a lot more avoidable.”

Mr O’Connor said that his family were being “careful” with their water usage and they have been collecting rain water to flush the toilet.

He added that he had queued at one of the water collection points for “an hour”, saying those at the station were doing “a great job” but the response from Southern Water had been “inadequate”.

“I don’t blame anyone for the pipe but it’s the response afterwards that has been pretty poor, the communication has not been great, and I think they could have done a lot more,” he said.

Southern Water said: “We are deeply sorry for the mains water pipe burst and the loss of supply so many of our customers in Hastings, St Leonards rural areas around Westfield are experiencing.

“As you’d expect we have been working around the clock to not only fix the issue but also do all we can to help our customers, especially those who are vulnerable.

“We’re sorry to hear a small number of people are taking water when delivered in this way.

“We are doing our best to leave in a suitable place wherever possible and understand how upsetting this is.

“We have added these people to our lists again, and will continue with deliveries until this incident is fixed and supply restored.”