Southern Water has celebrated a Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) report that has given the highest ever rating for bathing waters across the southeast.
The government department has labelled 59 out of the area’s 83 beaches as ‘excellent’ – up by one compared to last year.
For the fourth year running, none of the beaches has been labelled poor.
But the bathing water around Southsea has changed from ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ – and activists from Stop The Sewage Southsea say the classifications are ‘laughable’.
The group was founded in 2021 to protest ongoing sewage discharge into the Solent by Southern Water, which was fined a record was fined a record £90m for pumping untreated sewage into the Solent and other waters over the last decade.
Only last week, swimmers were finding sanitary pads in bathing waters, according to activist and keen swimmer Sarah Shreeve.
She said: ‘It’s laughable.
‘The problem with bathing water sampling is that they are not sampling the ongoing, consistent quality of the water.
‘We know our sea water gets dirty after heavy rain. It would seem very few bathing water samples are taken after heavy rain.
‘It’s like going to check if someone’s roof leaks and going on a sunny day.’
Southern Water’s Budds Farm sewage treatment works in Havant discharged water into Langstone Harbour for more than 16 hours from 6am on Sunday, January 9, according to the firm’s water quality monitoring site.
Defra sayings bathing waters must meet ‘tough water quality targets’, which measure concentrations of Escherichia coli (EC) and Intestinal enterococci (IE), according to the government department’s website.
Southern Water is committed to cutting ‘pollution incidents’ and ‘storm overflows’ by 80 per cent by 2030 with £2 billion in investment to improve waterways’ quality, according to Barry Woodham, Southern Water’s bathing water manager.
He said: ‘The trend of improvement has continued again in 2021 thanks to the collaborative approach taken between councils, regulators, charities and Southern Water. Thirty years ago only 41 per cent of beaches in the region met the ‘Sufficient’ standard’.’
Stop The Sewage Southsea has a range of events and protests – including a mass ‘visit’ of Southern Water sites – planned throughout the year to continue to highlight the issue.