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Sewage spills into wildlife oasis as sewers cannot cope

NATURE Birds in Langstone Harbour. Picture: Allan Hutchings (093921-436)

By Jeff Travis
Published in the Portsmouth News on Tuesday 17th July 2012

SOUTHERN Water has been criticised for pumping an unprecedented amount of sewage into a harbour over the past two months.

In total, 21 sewage discharges spilled into Langstone Harbour during June alone.

This month there have already been six spills by Southern Water into the protected beauty spot – compared to 47 for the whole of last year.

It comes as the sewers and pumping stations have struggled to cope with the wet summer.

The sewage has come from pumping stations at Drayton and Fort Cumberland, Eastney.

Some has been screened to remove large items, but some coming from Fort Cumberland has been in its raw form as the filtering system has failed.

The unscreened leaks are illegal and have been reported to the Environment Agency.

One example occurred on June 5, when raw sewage was pumped into the harbour for five hours.

Such spillages have landed the company in court before, with a £50,000 fine two years ago for 36 illegal discharges from an outfall pipe at Eastney.

It comes as similar problems have been experienced in Chichester Harbour, with sewage pumped into the beauty spot on more than 20 days because treatment works in Apuldram became overloaded.

Green groups acknowledged the rainy weather, but said more needed to be done.

Co-ordinator for Hampshire Friends of the Earth Ray Cobbett said: ‘They are not doing a good enough job – they have allowed events to overtake them.

‘Had they made the investment earlier in time, we would not see so many discharges.’

Mr Cobbett said a review was needed in light of the changing weather patterns and housebuilding plans for the Havant area.

Captain Nigel Jardine, harbourmaster for Langstone, said the discharges had had no major effects on water quality as the harbour is flushed out every day with the tide.

But he added: ‘In an ideal world, we would not have any discharges into the harbour.’

Samuel Underwood, a spokesman for Southern Water, said the stormwater had to be released into the sea to prevent flooding of homes and gardens.

He added: ‘We regret and apologise for the current situation and are developing a £10m scheme that will prevent the screens from failing in future.

‘June was the wettest on record and the torrential rain meant several releases were needed to prevent flooding. We are designing a £20m scheme to divert rainwater from Portsmouth’s sewers to ease the pressure on the system.’

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