Southern Water sewage leaks to come under the spotlight at Portsmouth City Council meeting

THREE motions calling on Southern Water to take action to stop discharges of sewage into the sea will be debated by councillors next week.

By Josh Wright
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 4:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021, 10:57 am
Southern Water's Budds Farm outfall photographed pouring out untreated sewage at on October 21 Picture: Chris Pearsall Commercial Photography
Southern Water's Budds Farm outfall photographed pouring out untreated sewage at on October 21 Picture: Chris Pearsall Commercial Photography

Charlotte Gerada, Matt Atkins and Darren Sanders are all set to raise the issue when the city council meets on Tuesday after the company released untreated sewage into Langstone Harbour for 49 hours straight last month.

They will say the practice is 'putting the health and safety of residents at risk' and damaging wildlife and that action needed to be taken and call for 'renewed unity across political parties and the city'.

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Between May and September, Southern Water discharged sewage into the sea nearly 3,000 times. In July the firm was fined £90m for releasing between 16bn and 21bn litres.

'The impact this has on our local marine and coastal environment, ecology and water users has united Portsmouth politicians in condemnation of these practices,' Cllr Atkins' motion will say.

He will call on the leaders of each group to write to the prime minister and environment secretary 'to outline our concerns and condemn the practices of Southern Water and other water companies in the strongest terms'.

In 2019 cabinet member for the environment councillor Dave Ashmore a motion calling on the company to 'completely' stop the discharge of sewage into Langstone Harbour was unanimously supported by the council.

But Cllr Gerada will say no improvements have been made since.

'Despite Southern Water’s actions, the company continues to make millions in profits, including £138.8m in the 2020-21 financial year,' her motion will say. 'What is more, the fine Southern Water received has not changed their behaviour and sewage leaks are still ongoing.'

Her motion asks council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson and his fellow group leaders to jointly write to the company 'to demand they stop illegal discharges and take urgent action to give adequate notice to residents if the sea is not safe to swim in'.

It also urges the council to 'engage' with the Environment Agency to consider the potential for new enforcement measures to be brought in.

The third motion will be proposed by Cllr Sanders, who is also chairman of the Langstone Harbour Board, 'condemning' the latest discharges.

Earlier this week he called for an 'urgent' meeting with the company's chief executive Ian McAulay.

A spokesman for Southern Water said the firm was working to cut 'pollution incidents' by 80 per cent over the next four years and that it 'believed' a similar reducation in storm releases could be achieved by 2030.

'The call to action on pollution and storm releases is clear and this week we set up a task force to tackle our reliance on storm releases which is at the heart of current public debate,' they said. 'Storm releases protect our customers’ homes and businesses from flooding and we welcome the opportunity to show leadership on this vital issue.

'We want to work in partnership with Portsmouth County Council and other key stakeholders across our region because we believe the moment has arrived to create a truly sustainable water future for our region.'