Anger at delay in clearing sewage from beauty spot

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SOUTHERN Water has been criticised after pollution spewed into Langstone Harbour – and then wasn’t cleared up for six days.

Unscreened raw sewage has spilled from the company’s pumping station at Fort Cumberland, Eastney, on four occasions since December.

Langstone Harbour Board, which manages the protected wildlife area, has criticised the firm as sewage was still on the shoreline six days after a spillage in January.

The company has to report any illegal discharges as soon as they happen and promptly remove offensive material from the shoreline.

Jackie Branson, chairwoman of the harbour board, said: ‘Obviously it’s not acceptable.

‘Normally they are quite good, and I’m not sure what happened with this incident.

‘This is sadly going to be an ongoing problem until they have got the new screens installed.’

The latest pollution incidents follow a string of leaks over the last 18 months following problems with the sewage screens at Fort Cumberland.

Raw sewage ends up being pumped into the harbour whenever there is very heavy rainfall.

The problem lies in the filters becoming blocked during periods of heavy rain.

Southern Water was fined £50,000 in April last year for 36 illegal discharges from the outfall pipe in Eastney.

Leilah Nicola, a spokeswoman for the company, said: ‘Southern Water takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and we’re working on a long-term solution to resolve the problems with the screens at Fort Cumberland.

‘The problems began after screens that filter solid debris, such as nappies and wipes, from wastewater were damaged during a storm. A temporary solution was put in place but during severe weather they can struggle to cope with the force of the flows.

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

The work is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Regarding the clean-up delay, she added: ‘We always aim to clean up the affected stretches of beach at the very earliest opportunity.

‘Unfortunately, this did not happen in early January, as it appears the incident was not escalated correctly through the company. We apologise for this error and are looking at ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again.’