Water firm must find a way to please neighbours

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LESLEY KEATING: A white-knuckle pursuit ending with a lesson in trust

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Sometimes direct action appears to be the only means of getting someone else to listen properly – and take action to sort out a problem.

That thought must have been foremost in the minds of residents who braved rain to gather outside the Southern Water pumping station in Eastney yesterday.

Their protest banners made their feelings clear, with the most telling carrying the simple and unequivocal message: ‘Southern Water stinks.’

And so it does, quite literally, in the view of many of those who live near the station in Henderson Road. They complain that they have long had to endure noise and unpleasant odours from the plant.

Many say they’ve also suffered further through damage done to their homes when a second pumping station was built under Bransbury Park.

And they feel that salt has been rubbed into their wounds by a failure by Southern Water to properly address and act upon their complaints.

It is a shame that things have got to this stage, not least because the answers to some of the problems appear at face value at least to be relatively simple. A prime example is the complaints about offensive odours.

Protesters acknowledge that the pumping station has many features to stop smells escaping, but claim these are negated by doors being left open during summer months, allowing the smells to escape.

We’re pleased to see then that the firm has promised action on this, saying it will ensure it implements a closed-door policy. It’s important that the company keeps to this promise, given that its neighbours say it has made assurances in the past but then failed to carry them out.

It should, though, be the only closed-door aspect to this matter. Southern, which makes a lot of money from its business, should be bending over backwards to work with those who live near its premises.

Only by finding solutions to the problems they cite – and taking the necessary remedial action – can it prove itself to be a truly good neighbour.

a great turn-out. I had hoped for up to 50 if the weather was good, but under the circumstances this just shows how strong the feeling is here. The way Southern water has treated us is not acceptable.’

The protestors, from Henderson Road and the surrounding area, believe Southern Water’s pumping station causes too much noise, and foul smells.

They say the firm has not dealt with the problems.

Many are also in dispute with the company, because they believe they should be compensated for damage done to their homes when a second, underground, pumping station was built at Bransbury Park, Eastney, between 2008-2010.

Mr Stevenson said: ‘We have spoken to Southern Water about the noise and the smells, but nothing has changed. We haven’t heard from them about this demonstration, but if they don’t deal with the issues, we’ll be back next week, and the week after, until they do. We won’t put up with it any more.’

Taff Jones, of Henderson Park, was also at the demonstration.

He said: ‘The noise is terrible. It goes on 24 hours. It doesn’t keep you awake, but it’s a continuous thing, and it’s because the pumps need recalibrating, but it hasn’t been done. The smell is awful, too. They have built a state of the art facility, which is airtight and lets no odours out, but then they open the doors when the weather’s warm. They told us they would change that, but nothing’s been done.’

A Southern water spokeswoman said: ‘A number of improvements have already been made to reduce noise and odour and more work is scheduled to take place in the coming months, including the installation of an odour suppressant system, refurbishment of three final effluent pumps, which will reduce noise and smell, replacement of the low level pumps to reduce noise and vibrations further, a ‘closed door policy’ at the pumping station to contain odours, daily readings from the odour plant logged and available to Portsmouth City Council environmental health officers, and detailed design of noise reduction measures.’

Southern Water Wastewater Manager Stewart Garrett said: ‘We’re investing heavily in Portsmouth in the next five years. This includes making improvements to Eastney pumping station to ensure it’s working as effectively as possible, while easing the impact on nearby residents.’ x