It’s thought hundreds of homes and local businesses could be unintentionally polluting the popular Southend coastline after Anglian Water found a block of 30 flats on Eastern Esplanade with illegally connected drains.

These misconnected drains occur as a result of poor quality building works and plumbing mistakes, and can have a devastating impact on the cleanliness of Southend’s rivers and much-loved bathing waters. Dirty water from toilets, sinks, showers, washing machines and dishwashers ends up in the surface water sewer, rather than the wastewater sewer, and from there flows directly into rivers and the sea.

On this occasion Anglian Water quickly re-connected the drains to the correct wastewater sewer at no cost to the customers. The company is  now investing £460,000 in extensive CCTV surveys and dye tests to trace the other sources of water pollution in the area, to tackle the wider issue.  

As well as looking to prevent the pollution at source, Anglian Water is also working with the Environment Agency to educate builders on the different types of sewers and explain the repercussions of plumbing mistakes.  

Misconnected drains are one of the main culprits of poor water quality and it’s thought around 300,000 homes in England and Wales have misconnected drains. However, the actual number remains hard to quantify as the connections are often out of sight and difficult to locate.  

Christine Box, who works for Anglian Water in Southend, said: “To find 30 illegally connected drains in one block of flats is quite astonishing but what’s more worrying is the flats on Eastern Esplanade were built quite recently, so you’d expect those to be plumbed in properly.  

“The good news is we’re making excellent progress. Since the discovery on Eastern Esplanade, we’ve identified another newly-built block of flats on London Road and one at the upper end of the High Street, near the Odeon.  

“Southend is a town that’s proud of its coastline, but unfortunately with misconnected drains many homeowners are completely unaware of the pollution being caused by their every flush. Many residents, like those of the Eastern Esplanade flats, are innocent bystanders. That’s why this project is so important to raise awareness and improve the quality of Southend and Leigh-On-Sea’s bathing waters for the long term.  

“We’ve invested millions of pounds to address the big issues affecting the quality of coastal bathing waters, but many other factors, such as misconnections, have a large cumulative impact and now we need the help of the Southend community to tackle these individual, hidden problems.  

“Although misconnections aren’t always visible above ground we’d still encourage customers to give their wastewater pipes a once-over. If they spot anything unusual, for instance if their rainwater guttering downpipe is feeding into the same drain as their sink or toilet pipe, that could mean there’s a misconnection and we’d urge them to let us know. We would also urge customers to use an approved plumber for any home improvements."