SEWAGE systems in Benfleet appear to be at breaking point as sewage was seen overflowing into nearby playing fields.

Worried residents kicked up a stink when sewage was seen spilling from Benfleet Sewage Treatment Works into Richmond Park recreational ground last week.

Foul smells emanating from the sewage plant and frequent spills have been plaguing families in the area for five years.

Anglian Water ploughed a whopping £1million into improving the facility off Watlington Road, earlier this year, which appeared to put an end to residents’ misery.

Serious safety concerns were raised when the company was forced to carry out a spill to prevent sewage backing up in the system following heavy rainfall last Thursday and Friday.

John Rogers, of Oak Field Road, Benfleet, said: “This is such a major health hazard. Children regularly play over there, not to mention lots of people walk their dogs that way. How can the company be allowed to do this, surely they are breaking some kind of rules?

“I thought this investment would help solve the problem, but maybe this problem is just unsolvable. Clearly the system can’t keep up with the number of homes we have here now if they had to do this to stop things backing up.”

Representatives from Anglian Water confirmed to the Echo it was part of a controlled operation and that the material had been diluted prior to being released into the fields.

The company also said it was in regular communication with the Environment Agency about carrying out such spills.

Alf Partridge, Tory councillor for St Mary’s ward, said: “I am so very disappointed to learn from residents that this is happening again. The engineers assured us over the summer that the investment works would put a stop to all these spills but it seems as though this money has been spent in all the wrong places.

“Legally they may well be allowed to do this but it is completely and utterly morally wrong.”

The major investment programme included installing a new roof on one of the tanks, upgrading the pumps on site to minimise the chances of sewage stagnating, and the installation of a new unit to mask smells.

Antony Innes from Anglian Water said: "After periods of heavy rainfall, like we saw last week, specifically designed overflows allow storm water to escape the network to protect homes and businesses from potential flooding.

"We'd like to assure residents these overflows are a critical part of our carefully managed sewer network that allow rainwater to escape the sewer system and return to the environment.

"Residents will know that we have recently completed significant improvements at Benfleet sewage treatment works and the pumping station near to Richmond Park.

"As part of this work we fully upgraded this pumping station to ensure it is able to work effectively and make sure this overflow is only used when it is vital to do so."