CONCERN was raised this week by residents of Downderry, near Looe, after workmen were spotted reopening a sewage line that has been closed for years.
Tristan Rogers was on his daily walk across the beach when he spotted the work crews.
He said: “I saw the South West Water work crew from across the beach and as I approached realised they were working on the sewage line. I went over to ask what they were doing and they said they were ‘reopening the overflow pipe’.
“I was shocked. I contacted our local councillor who said he had no knowledge of the work and was horrified. The pipe has been closed and blocked with sand and grit for more than 15 to 20 years.”
Tristan also contacted his parish council who confirmed they were aware of the situation.
The council later put out the following statement informing residents of the work: “Following reports of sewage discharge around the outflow pipe located opposite St Nicolas School earlier in the year, DPC investigated and found that, although listed by the Environment Agency as an active CSO, this pipe did not appear on SWW’s own public mapping and did not seem to be properly maintained.
“Following our April meeting (see minutes online) DPC contacted SWW who confirmed that this was indeed an active emergency overflow outfall and an essential part of existing infrastructure designed primarily to relieve the system in the event of a failure at Downderry pumping station. It has always been active and the work currently being undertaken is for maintenance and repair (for the first time in many years).”
However, Tristan said he had been disappointed local residents had not been made aware sooner.
He said: “The post from Deviock Parish Council was prompted after my initial post to alert residents of the work being carried out by SWW.
“It appears that they were aware of sewage discharge and have essentially asked SWW to clear the pipe so the sewage can go just a little bit out to sea which it has not been doing for at least 15 to 20 years.
“It is right in front of the primary school - surely this is something we should have all been informed about. They call it an ‘emergency overflow’ but lets call a spade a spade, it is a sewage pipe.”
Deviock Parish Council chair Mark Gibbons responded: “Problems with this outfall leaking on the shoreline were initially reported to the Parish Council in March of this year and were discussed by Councillors at our April meeting (minutes online).
“The interactive map at theriverstrust.org/key-issues/sewage-in-rivers reports it as active (with 31 discharges through it under permit number 037807/PC/01 in 2022 and additional data showing it as active in 2021 as well). As we were unable to find reference to this outlet on SWW’s own mapping page we contacted them to confirm its status and their responsibility for maintaining it.
“SWW have subsequently confirmed to us that the outfall at Downderry is an existing asset and NOT a disused or additional overflow pipe that they are recommissioning. Their team is carrying out restorative/ rehabilitation work and cleansing an existing Emergency overflow pipe to prevent leakage on the beach and shoreline at the location.”
Having been notified by Tristan, Cllr Armand Toms, Cornwall councillor for Looe and Deviock, confirmed he will be following up this situation with the CEO of SWW.
He said: “I was contacted by a resident of Downderry who had been on the beach and saw SWW workers working on the sewage pipe on the beach across from St Nicholas School. Having spoken to the parish chairman and clerk they contacted SWW who said that the pipe although not marked on the outfall system was being used and needed repair.
“I will be writing to Sue Davy the CEO of SWW about this issue.”
In response a spokesperson for Pennon Group, South West Water, confirmed: “Our team is carrying out restorative work and cleansing an existing overflow pipe in Downderry. We are not recommissioning a disused pipe.”