‘Vicious circle’ warning over water firm investigated for Langstone Harbour sewage discharge

Scum foam at Langstone Harbour, Eastney


Published in the Portsmouth News on the 3rd September 2018

Story by Ben Fishwick


AN ENVIRONMENTAL campaigner has warned Southern Water must ‘keep pace’ to avoid pouring more sewage and stormwater into Langstone Harbour.

Ray Cobbett, chairman of the Havant branch of Friends of the Earth, spoke out after The News revealed the water utility firm is under investigation for possible breaches of its permit to discharge sewage into the harbour.

Southern pumps its containment tanks into the harbour after heavy rainfall as householders could face flooding in their homes.

But now Mr Cobbett has said with more homes being built, Southern must keep apace.

The firm said it has invested £50m in its system in recent years and will soon meet Portsmouth City Council over its demand for a new sewer line.

Mr Cobbett said: ‘Unfortunately this issue goes back at least 10 years. It does not look as if Southern Water are keeping pace with the effects this discharge is currently having.

‘But there is a real possibility it could get a lot worse with the 4,000 or 5,000 new homes which are going to be delivered as part of the local plan – and Southern Water are not giving us any reassurance.’

The Environment Agency is currently carrying out an investigation into the firm over Langstone Harbour, and further afield across Hampshire and Sussex.

Mr Cobbett added: ‘Southern Water has been fined for this discharge on two previous occasions, but here we are again, talking about the problem.

‘It is not the company directors who pay those fines, it’s the company as a whole. So essentially we are footing the bill for them ourselves. It’s a vicious circle.’

Sewage and stormwater were pumped into the harbour over the August bank holiday weekend following heavy rain.

Havant MP Alan Mak has said he met with Southern and it was ‘disappointing’ if there had been breaches of its discharge permit.

He said: ‘After being contacted by several residents concerned about storm water sewage being released into Langstone Harbour, I wrote to the Environment Agency who confirmed that Southern Water were under investigation for breaches of their discharge permits.

‘While it’s disappointing that there might have been breaches, Southern Water have outlined to me the investment they are making to minimise stormwater discharge into Langstone Harbour.

‘In addition, the Environment Agency assure me they conduct regular monitoring of the Hayling Island beachfront during the bathing water season and tell me they consistently class the water quality as excellent.’

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