Campaigners call for 'real consequences' for stormwater discharges in Langstone Harbour
INCOMING legislation for the marine environment must go further to make real change, say environmental campaigners.
This Wednesday, the Environment Bill will be put through the report stage in the House of Lords.
The bill will lay out new environmental targets, air quality and waste separation laws, but also places stormwater discharges under the microscope.
Under current proposals, the secretary of state will prepare a plan to reduce the number of permitted discharges.
In recent years, discharges of this kind in the Solent have led to sewage oozing into Langstone Harbour, between Portsmouth and Hayling Island.
Southern Water, which manages wastewater services in the area, committed to spending £5m to improving water quality last year, following persistent concerns from residents and campaigners.
It was fined £90m in July for discharging sewage into the sea across the south, including at Budds Farm in Havant.
Bianca Carr, co-founder of the Final Straw Foundation, said: 'There was a discharge quite recently that I went down to - you watch it, smell it and it's unmistakeably sewage. It's horrible.
'Even if the number of permitted discharges is cut by the government, I can see things continuing as they are. Southern Water has the money to pay the fines and until there are real consequences for their actions, they will keep on doing it.
'There are laws already when it comes to these discharges, so I think the big solution is simply enforcing it, while investing in more storage tanks to keep the water instead of releasing it.
'There do have to be discharges, but by having more storage space it can be treated properly.'
In 2019, Southern Water was fined a record £126m after a report found 'serious' failings at wastewater treatment sites.
Nick Sebley from Portsmouth Climate Alliance explained that the problem goes deeper than Southern Water.
He said: 'Ultimately, the root cause of this is that we keep creating carbon emissions, which leads to heavier rainfall.
'The rainfall is overwhelming the drainage infrastructure across Portsmouth and Hampshire, so we need to look at it from both angles.
'Tackling carbon emissions and keeping our green spaces for extra drainage has to be the first step to combatting this.'
Hampshire County Council and Southern Water have both been approached for comment.