Anger as swimming gala is cancelled again over pollution fears in Langstone Harbour

Eastney swimming gala at Langstone Harbour in 2013 ''Picture: Anthony Leggett
Eastney swimming gala at Langstone Harbour in 2013 ''Picture: Anthony Leggett
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AN ANNUAL swimming gala was cancelled for the second year running over ongoing concerns about pollution in Langstone Harbour.

Officials at Eastney Cruising Association took the decision to cancel this year’s swim from Eastney to Hayling Island amid worries about sewage.

Dozens of people had been due to take part, but the race was cancelled over health and safety fears.

Last year was also cancelled for the same reason.

This year’s decision came after Southern Water put out a discharge notification – available on Langstone Harbour Board’s website – about a release of screened wastewater from its treatment plant at Budds Farm in Havant.

The notice says the discharge – diluted with rainwater – lasted about two hours.

The company is allowed by the Environment Agency to release screened wastewater to stop flooding.

But Bob Evans, sailing secretary, said: ‘It did certainly rain – but certainly not heavy rain or any rainfall I’d expect to cause any flooding.

‘Southern Water are only supposed to be discharging into the sea in situations when the city might flood.’

Since the swim was cancelled, on August 15, the area has experienced a deluge of heavy rain.

There have been more than 40 discharge notifications this month, mainly from Budds Farm.

Louise MacCallum, environment officer for Langstone Harbour Board, said sewage levels had probably gone up.

She said: ‘If the ECA want to take that decision to be better safe than sorry, I can understand that.’

But she said pollution worries had eased thanks to Southern Water’s £10m investment in improving its pumping station at Fort Cumberland.

She added: ‘Before the investment we had massive problems with discharges from Fort Cumberland with solid matter and dead rats. Since the investment, we have not seen that happening.’

Southern Water officials said while some of the discharge notifications are genuine, others are false alerts.

They said the measuring equipment is not always accurate – mainly because it operates in weather-affected, saline conditions in the harbour.

On August 15, unbeknown to the club, it was a false alert.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We understand that a local regatta obtained this information from the Langstone Harbour Board website. Southern Water recommend people contact us directly if they have concerns which may affect forthcoming events – so we can provide the most up to date and accurate information. We would like to assure the club that in light of this situation we are looking at ways to improve both our automatic and manual checks.’