Life in Falmouth now smells a lot sweeter thanks to a campaign which discovered and stopped thousands of litres of raw sewage flowing directly from hundreds of homes and businesses into the wrong drains and out to sea.
After customers and businesses complained of a bad smell in the Prince of Wales Pier, Market Place and Killigrew Street areas of Falmouth, South West Water and its partners Clearflow Ltd surveyed the local sewerage network using CCTV equipment and dye testing to find the source of the stink.
They discovered that more than 300 properties in the town were wrongly connected to the surface water drainage system. Waste water from the properties’ toilets and sinks had been flowing into surface water drains – designed to collect run-off from roofs, roads and pavements – causing the unpleasant smell and discharging untreated into the sea.
Once the misconnected pipe work was found – in some cases more than a kilometre away from the site of the complaints – South West Water’s partners May Gurney worked to connect the properties correctly to the foul sewer, which takes waste water for treatment at Falmouth Sewage Treatment Works.
South West Water Sewerage Engineer Ian Macfarlane said: “Several weeks of investigation and repair work has resulted in finding the sources of this odour and pollution.
“The owners of the properties would have had no idea they had accidentally been causing problems, but thankfully we have been able to put it right.
“Residents and businesses in the Prince of Wales Pier area should notice a great improvement.”
South West Water worked closely with Falmouth Town Manager Richard Gates, the Environment Agency and Sarah Newton MP to keep them informed of progress.
Mark Pilcher, Environment Management team leader from the Environment Agency, praised the company for its prompt response to resolve the problem.
He said: “The Environment Agency are really encouraged to see the extent of the investigation completed by South West Water. The sewer network in this area is highly complex and it is reassuring that South West Water has been able to identify the foul sewer misconnections to the surface water drains that have been causing odour issues for local residents and businesses.
“By identifying the problem, South West Water has reduced the risk of untreated sewage being discharged to the sensitive environment of the Falmouth Estuary.”
Sarah Newton MP said: “I am pleased that the pervasive odour around the Prince of Wales Pier has now been tackled.
“I hope that Falmouth residents, and visitors to our town, can now enjoy the amenities of the Pier and the surrounding streets without being subject to unpleasant smells.”
Town Manager Richard Gates added: “These issues have really affected businesses and the visitor experience to that area of the town. I am very pleased that South West Water has persisted to find these problems and rectify them.
“It should not be underestimated the scale of the work in order to make the improvements. I have been in frequent contact with South West Water and their cooperation has certainly helped determine a positive outcome.”