Hayling Island's 'dirty little secret' of polluted water causes sailing clubs to blast Southern Water
A WATER company has been told to clean up its act by a dozen sailing clubs, with residents attributing a variety of illnesses to foul-smelling water in scenic waterways.
For several years, water-sport enthusiasts have called on Southern Water to tackle pollution in Langstone and Chichester Harbours, due in part to stormwater that is released from Budds Farm.
The Environment Agency allows stormwater drains – including those connected to foul-water sewers – to be released into waterways in order to stop the system overflowing.
Now a dozen commodores from sailing clubs across the region have called on MPs, council leaders, and Southern Water to stop this practice from spoiling the popular harbours.
In a letter calling for action, the group writes: ‘We are writing to you on behalf of our membership to ask you as regulators and local government to act with the utmost urgency to improve the water treatment facilities in the area to prevent the potentially disastrous consequences for the harbour.
‘Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour are under threat from many years of deteriorating water quality.
‘Recent well documented pollution events around both harbours, occurring with ever-increasing frequency, are demonstrating that Southern Water does not have the capacity to deal with the current situation.’
The commodores of the sailing clubs added that failure to act would mean ‘increasing’ risk to people’s health.
Vice-commodore of Emsworth Sailing Club, Tim Keeping, said: 'This is the single biggest issue that has faced our waters for many years. It's an unacceptable scenario.
'Historically and by design, the wastewater is overflowing into both Chichester and Langstone harbours. It is screened by Southern Water but that is like using a big sieve - there will still be bits that come out the other end and into the water.
'There has to be a process where everyone gets their act together, because letting waste flow into the harbour so frequently cannot be the solution. It's practically become part of Southern Water's day-to-day operation and that has to change.'
These concerns were echoed by Hayling Island Sailing Club member and councillor for Hayling West, Joanne Thomas, who said that she is ‘inundated’ with letters from residents complaining about raw sewage in the harbours.
She said: ‘In my five years as a councillor, I have been inundated with emails about water quality in the harbours.
‘I think people would be absolutely shocked how polluted the water is.
‘You have the water ski lane that I have personally used, and I have said to family when they go there – ‘desperately try not to take on water or you will fall ill.’’
Avid kitesurfer Chris Bull, the founder of CBK Hayling Island Kitesurf School and Club, said his staff and family members often fall seriously ill after being in the water.
Chris, who also been a beach manger in the area for more than 22 years, said: ‘We know that the water in both harbours is often making people sick.
‘I went kitesurfing with son in December. We were really, really sick with stomach cramps. The two other family members that we live with – who didn’t go in the water – weren’t sick.
‘I have seen raw human sewage a couple of times, and you can smell it. I have been in council meetings where residents near Budds Farm have been talking about poo in their gardens.
‘You can tell where the high tide has been, let’s put it like that.
‘It’s the dirty little secret of Hayling Island.’
Environmental campaigner Mike Owens has spent years calling for the water company to do more – and now hopes the commodores’ letter could be a springboard to more action.
He said: ‘This shows that this issue is really picking up steam.
‘It’s definitely a welcome move because these clubs have a combined 12,500 members, roughly – so that’s a lot of people jumping on board with this campaign.
‘Things can only get better so I am optimistic about what might happen going forward.’
Joanne agreed: ‘I think finally residents and people upset by the pollution are being heard – there’s enough momentum that Southern Water cannot ignore the issue.’
But a representative from Southern Water said ending all storm releases would require changing the law and ‘very large investments’.
Nick Mills, head of pollution and flooding resilience at the company, said: ‘With our rivers and seas cleaner than they have been since the industrial revolution, we recognise there will be continuing pressure to drive environmental standard ever higher.
‘We fully support this drive and are constantly working with councils and developers to minimise the amount of rain entering our systems.
‘This will be a national conversation and customers will have to balance the environmental benefits of ending storm releases with potentially significant price rises for sewerage services and wide spread disruption as older combined surface drains and sewers are dug up and disconnected.’