Shoreham houseboats were ‘refused’ connection to sewer, owner says

Jessica Jermain by the houseboats on the River Adur in Shoreham
Jessica Jermain by the houseboats on the River Adur in Shoreham

Houseboat owners in Shoreham would be glad to connect to the sewage system – but Southern Water ‘refuse’ to make this possible, a houseboat owner has said.

Jessica Jermain, secretary of the Houseboat Association, who has lived on a houseboat for seven years, said: “I think the majority would be happy to be connected.”

Her comments come after the Herald reported on a resident’s complaints about sewage from houseboats being discharged directly into the River Adur.

Jessica said that in 2011, Southern Water had estimated it would cost each houseboat between £19,000 and £25,000 to connect to the sewage system.

“We just can’t afford that,” said Jessica, who added that the cost would probably be even higher now.

When planning permission was sought for the Environment Agency’s flood defence scheme in early 2016, Jessica said Adur District Council had been keen to ensure that Southern Water provided a sewage pipe for the houseboats as part of the works – but that the company had ‘refused’.

If Southern Water would provide a main sewage pipe, Jessica said it would be ‘fair’ to expect houseboat owners to pay to connect to it.

But unless a main sewage pipe is put in place, owners have no option to connect and Jessica said: “We are stuck, really.”

However, she said of the sewage: “On the whole, it causes very little trouble in the river.”

A spokesman for Southern Water said enforcing waste disposal from houseboats was the responsibility of the local authorities and the Environment Agency, not water companies.

The spokesman said any application to be connected to the public sewer ‘would always be considered’ and said: “The cost involved would depend on the complexities of the scheme and would be discussed with the applicant on an individual basis, as is standard procedure.”

The spokesman added: “We are currently investigating whether we have received an application to connect houseboats on the River Adur to the public sewer, but if the houseboat owners are able to provide us with copies of the original contact last year, it would speed up our enquiry.”

A spokesman from Adur District Council said: “It was recognised early in the Adur Tidal Walls project that the scheme provided an opportunity to install the infrastructure to allow the houseboats to connect to mains sewers.

“The cost of this connection was about £20,000 per boat.

“We did approach both Southern Water and the houseboat residents to see if they were willing to pay for this work but neither had the funds available.”

However, while the council regularly samples the river water, the spokesman said: “There is no cast iron proof that the houseboats discharge detrimental levels of sewage, as there are several sources in the vicinity, including run off from animals on nearby land.”