Havant Borough Council leader blasts Environment Agency over 'unsatisfactory' response to a 'false alarm' about the waters around Hayling Island

A WARNING from the Environment Agency to avoid the sea were based on a ‘false alarm’ – and the agency’s response should have been better, according to the leader of Havant Borough Council.

By Richard Lemmer
Friday, 15th October 2021, 12:01 pm

The Environment Agency warned people not get into the water off Eastney and Hayling Island due to an ‘abnormal situation’ last weekend, after reports of sewage, litter and a foul odour last Friday.

The agency’s officers did not find any sewage the following day, and they now believe that the alarming odour and colour of the water was due to ‘decaying algae’, according to Havant Borough Council leader Councillor Alex Rennie.

Cllr Rennie said: ‘Last weekend, the Environment Agency (EA) issued a severe ‘abnormal situation’ warning against going into the sea off Hayling Island.

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Final Straw Foundation members collected 135kg of rubbish and dirty wet wipes at Eastney beach last Saturday, after the Environment Agency issued an 'abnormal situation' warning about the Solent's water quality around Hayling Island.

‘This was based solely upon anecdotal reports that were sent in from members of the public.

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“I want to assure residents that since the notice has been issued, Havant Borough Council has been in discussion with the EA over why it was issued and the timeline for triggering the notice. They have assured me that after both despatching officers to the scene and reviewing images taken by the public that the notice was a ‘false alarm’.

The council leader said he remains ‘totally unsatisfied’ with the agency’s response to concerns about the area’s seawater quality.

Havant Borough Council leader Councillor Alex Rennie.

He said: ‘I remain totally unsatisfied with both the timeline for investigations, the decision to issue the warning and the failure of the EA to either publicise the warning at the time of the incident or to share information with Havant Borough Council as the coastal authority.

‘We are fortunate that on this occasion the EA inform me, based upon their analysis, that it was a false alarm, but I am continuing to urge the EA to improve their systems in the event of a genuine pollution issue in future.

‘While I’m proud that we have a blue flag beach which is regularly tested as having excellent water quality, we need to have absolute faith in the regulator that holds Southern Water to account.’

The incident comes after earlier this year Southern Water was fined a record £90m for pumping untreated sewage into the Solent and other waters from 17 treatment sites from 2010 to 2016.

On Monday, Southern Water issued a statement saying that no incidents of storm water releases took place last weekend and no evidence of sewage was found.

Activists from Stop The Sewage Southsea plan to hold a protest along Eastney Beach at 3pm tomorrow, highlighting continuing concerns about Southern Waters track record on pollution in the Solent.

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