AN AVID open water swimmer came “face to face with raw sewage”, sparking him to launch a mission to assess every storm overflow drain in Southend.

Shah Haider, 50, swims in the water off Southend’s seafront all year round but has been left furious after his survey of storm overflow drains found “just one” in a “fit and well-maintained condition”.

The Southend resident visited all 16 of the city’s storm overflow drains and found 15 are “not sealed, caked in sewage or seemingly unable to open”.

As a result he fears large amounts of sewage is leaking out of the drains and into the water.

Anglian Water acknowledged it is a major issue and is investing £100million into Southend’s sewer network to help tackle the issue.

Mr Haider said: “We were surprised ourselves. We thought on Saturday to go down and were left horrified, we are not professionals, but the condition is shocking, particularly the Hartington Road overflow.

“We found one storm overflow at Elizabeth Road that looks like it was working and functional, there were not stones and shells in the way, it looked sealed so if there was water it wouldn’t release at low tide. It was well maintained. It can be done.”

Mr Shah began campaigning for changes on sewage issues after being caught in a sewage slick caused by a storm overflow drain releasing sewage in 2021.

An Anglian Water spokesman said: “We fully agree that storm overflows are no longer the appropriate way of dealing with an overloaded sewer system. These systems were installed long before the water industry was privatised, and we’ve been working ever since to prioritise investment where it has the most environmental benefit.

“Our investment is focussed on finding alternative solutions to dealing with the reasons storm overflows operate, so we can stop using them altogether.

“As part of our next business plan from 2025 we’re proposing over £100million of investment in Southend to reduce storm spills buy increasing the capacity of the sewer network and our storm water storage at our Water Recycling Centre.

“And we’re also working with the local council on a new surface water drainage scheme for the city designed to keep rainwater out of sewers.”