What about fining the people at the top?

COMMENT: Attraction will capitalise on the riches in our midst

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Yet again we find that raw sewage has been pumped into Langstone Harbour. We can all share the anger and frustration of Hayling Island resident Irene Grant, who had gone for her daily swim only to see Southern Water staff collecting sewage along the shoreline.

She says simply: ‘For heaven’s sake, this is the 21st century and this should not be happening.’

Southern Water says that unscreened sewage was discharged into the harbour from an outfall pipe at Fort Cumberland, Eastney, after screens that normally filter the sewage became blocked.

But it was only last year that £100,000 was spent repairing the screening system. How can it have gone wrong so soon?

This is the same Southern Water that was fined £50,000 back in April for no fewer than 36 illegal discharges last year.

Yet following this latest incident, it says it cannot guarantee the problem will be fixed until 2015 because the firm works on a five-year programme.

That is simply not good enough. Apart from the health implications to humans of having raw sewage in the water and washing up on the beach, there are concerns about the effect on wildlife.

Everybody who pays water rates is right to expect that sewage is properly treated and disposed of.

But Southern Water’s track record is pretty poor.

The problem is that the present system of punishment is based on fines we believe are ineffectual. To a big company like Southern Water, £50,000 is a mere drop.

Anyway, such fines are paid out of a collective pot that we all contribute to through our rates.

So we suffer the consequences of the raw sewage being discharged, then end up helping to pay the company’s fine. This can’t be right.

What about a system whereby the people at the top of the company are made personally responsible for incidents of pollution and have to pay the fines themselves?

Maybe then they would appreciate the urgency of the problem and the need to make sure it doesn’t keep on happening.