Firms that pollute ought to risk losing their licences

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We’re not talking about an isolated incident, or even a small number of incidents. Southern Water is now facing the prospect of heavy fines after being accused of 41 separate pollution offences.

The Environment Agency says the company persistently breached the rules governing what it was and wasn’t allowed to pump into Langstone Harbour. Now it is taking Southern Water to court.

The company has already been subject to investigation by the EA over the Budds Farm sewage treatment works at Broadmarsh, Havant.

Plus, we’ve discovered that it is alleged to have leaked sewage into Langstone Harbour from its pumping station at Fort Cumberland, Eastney, although no legal proceedings have yet been launched

Now we find that it is being accused of regularly pumping what is called ‘crudely-screened’ sewage into a water course that leads to the harbour – despite only being permitted to do so in an emergency if there has been a plant breakdown.

Such repeated lapses, if they are proven to have taken place, must be of great concern to anybody who uses Langstone Harbour.

They will also anger all those who pay money to Southern Water through their bills. We have every right to expect that sewage is disposed of properly.

We know that a lot of money has been spent upgrading Budds Farm, so why are there still so many problems?

Southern Water won’t talk about it because it says a court case is pending. But environmentalists are right when they call for the company to do more to prevent any possible harm to the environment.

Now it faces a fine, which would be paid for by our money. The possibility of its licence being revoked is a non-starter as the government would have to give 25 years’ notice.

We think this should be reviewed. Because if fines are no real threat to an extremely profitable company well able to afford them, then surely the only effective sanction is the prospect of losing its lucrative licence.