‘Inconclusive’ dye test to confirm a storm outlet in Exmouth fails to throw up any answers – as town campaign group strives for ‘cleanest, safest’ waters

An investigation has failed to confirm the location of a storm outlet in Exmouth after South West Water carried out an ‘inconclusive’ water dye test.

Florescent dye was on Wednesday (June 14) added to the water near Maer Rocks, Exmouth, after community concerns over pollution were raised when ‘black sewage’ – found to be rotting seaweed – was seen on the sand.

South West Water (SWW) said the inconclusive dye test to confirm the discharge location of its outfall pipe provided no answers and ‘further options’ were needed to investigate further.

The water company said the test result could have been down to reduced water levels failing to adequately flush the dye through the out-pipe.

Campaigners from End Sewage Convoys And Poollution Exmouth (ESCAPE) who called for the dye testing in a bid to clean-up the towns waters, said a ‘productive’ meeting with SWW after the dye test resulted in fresh talks for follow-up investigations.

Geoff Crawford, ESCAPE member, said: “We had a follow up meeting with South West Water on Thursday [June 15] which was productive and they have assured us they will run the test again but probably September after the tourist season.

“I have suggested that they run the test immediately the next overflow occurs which will be next time it rains and they have agree that this is possible and will investigate that.”

He added: “I believe Exmouth is moving towards a positive environmental focus and that is reflected in the council members.

“Our aim is to make Exmouth one of the cleanest, safest water sports destinations in the country and one of the fastest to achieve that despite Simon Jupp MP not promoting Exmouth for the Government Ofwat Accelerated Infrastructure Delivery projects.”

Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon, said; “My constituency office is right by Exmouth beach and I firmly believe the town deserves its fair share of investment from South West Water.

“I will continue to work with constructive local campaigners who want to make a difference. I won’t stop my calls for investment until South West Water clean up their act and our water.”


South West Water carried out dye testing in Exmouth to locate a storm outlet.
Photo: Geoff Crawford.


Campaigners from End Sewage Convoys And Poollution Exmouth (ESCAPE) watch for the dye to appear.
Photo: Geoff Crawford.

A spokeswoman for the water company said test took place and was inconclusive – a result suspected to be due to lack of available water to flush the dye in the network out through the pipe.

She said SWW was ‘confident’ that its storm overflow discharges from the permitted location at Exmouth.

The water company said it was ‘possible’ the  yellow-green dye could still be expelled.

South West Water was keen to reassure beach-goers that the dye was harmless to humans, wildlife and water quality.

It said the temporary colouring will not affect bathing water quality or the wider ecology of the beach or Exe estuary.

A spokeswoman for SWW said: “We carried out a dye test at Maer Rocks in Exmouth following a request from the local community.

“The purpose of the dye test was to confirm the discharge location of our outfall pipe to provide reassurance to the community that our outfall functions as designed. Unfortunately, the test was inconclusive.

“We suspect this was due to lack of available water to flush the dye in the network out through the pipe.

“We were grateful for the support of the local community during the test and we will explore further options in order to confirm the discharge location.”

The aim of the dye testing was to pinpoint the location of the storm overflow pipe – where extra rainwater or wastewater is released into rivers or seas.

It was hoped the test results would give Exmouth ammunition to push for a simpler alarm system.

The town council said there was ‘much confusion’ over the current method.

The timing of the test had been planned to ensure optimum tidal conditions for the process to take place.


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