Southern Water blasted after sewage water discharged into Langstone Harbour leaks into nature reserve

‘FAECES-laden’ stormwater has been discharged into a coastal beauty spot, breaching the defences of a nature reserve.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 11:38 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 2:24 pm

Southern Water has ignited anger after it released a huge surge of sewage into Langstone Harbour over the weekend.

The filthy release was first pumped into the harbour late on Saturday afternoon and was still oozing into the harbour on Sunday.

Aerial footage showed the extent of the pollution, with a large brown plume of waste water mixing with the sea.

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Wastewater pictured leaking into the Southmoor Nature Reserve over the weekend.

The contaminated water has since leaked into the Southmoor Nature Reserve, after high tides bumped up by heavy rain on Sunday allowed the sewage to spill over the sea defences.

Southern defended its actions, saying the alternative would have been ‘widespread, internal flooding of people’s homes’ while insisting it had not pumped wastewater into the reserve.

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But the situation has prompted calls from a marine biologist for the under-fire water firm to set an emergency working group to tackle the issue.

A large sewage water plume is pictured spreading out across Langstone Harbour. Photo: Mathew Orchard

Dr Ian Hendy, who heads the University of Portsmouth’s marine biology course and is a scientific consultant, said he had ‘serious concerns for human, ecological and environmental health’.

In an email chain, seen by The News, Dr Hendy criticised Southern Water for failing to heed previous warnings from concerned locals.

‘Please, Southern Water, let us be proactive towards this and develop a solution that benefits everyone and nature,’ the university lecturer said. ‘Rather than ignore our concerns, please let us work together to form solutions and be constructive.

‘I think an emergency working group to strategise would be a great way to move forward with immediate and applied action… Let's work together and be constructive rather than being destructive.’

Wastewater pictured leaking into the Southmoor Nature Reserve over the weekend.

The marine biologist’s calls were echoed by a retired Royal Navy boss, who has demanded tougher sanctions from the government to prevent waste water pollution.

Speaking to The News, Rear Admiral Alex Burton – who previously served as commander of UK maritime forces – said: ‘It appears yet again Southern Water has spilled raw sewage which is really horrid.

‘Despite giving routine dividends and bonuses to their executives they regularly leak raw sewage … It is simply wrong.

‘There are some really positive words by this government on the green agenda and the environment. But it is clear that the current sanctions are not tough enough to encourage Southern Water to respond. It’s a toothless deterrent.’

A flooded Southmoor Nature Reserve after stormwater punched through a hole in its sea defences

Haying Island resident and keen conservationist Mike Owens said he was appalled at the latest release by Southern and has since written to the company to express his anger.

‘The stench of faeces was frankly gut wrenching,’ he added.

Last year Southern Water was slapped with a record £126m fine for spills of wastewater into the environment from its sewage plants.

It was also lambasted by water regulator Ofwat for deliberately misreporting its performance, with the Environment Agency having launched a criminal investigation into the company’s actions.

Speaking of the latest incident, Southern said it was forced to release stormwater from its Budds Farm treatment works on Saturday and alerted recreational users via an alert service on Sunday morning.

A spokesman added: ‘We do not discharge even the heavily diluted storm flows into the nature reserve. It is important customers understand that storm releases are permitted by the Environment Agency.

‘In many parts of the region for historical reasons our sewers are connected to the surface drain network. The alternative to storm releases would be widespread internal flooding of people’s homes.’

Southern Water appeared at Maidstone Crown Court in March and pleaded guilty to 51 sewage pollution charges.

The firm will be sentenced at a hearing in February. A spokesman for the Environment Agency added they could ‘not comment further’ while criminal proceedings were ongoing.

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