Southern Water told to improve infrastructure 'as a matter of urgency' as Environment Agency criminal probe continues
UTILITY firm Southern Water has been told to improve its infrastructure ‘as a matter of urgency’ as a criminal probe into its wastewater releases rages on.
Havant Borough Council is writing to the firm to demand it improves the water quality at Hayling Island and Langstone Harbour.
It said it is ‘extremely concerned’ about the number of Southern Water’s wastewater releases at the beauty spots and debris left behind.
It comes as a separate Environment Agency criminal probe into the environmental effects of suspected permit breaches by the company is ongoing.
Residents recently issued a ‘brown alert’ online after a recent suspected discharge which left behind toilet roll and human excrement.
Councillor Michael Wilson, leader of Havant Borough Council, said: ‘I’m extremely angry at Southern Water’s persistent discharges into Langstone Harbour.
‘As is apparent, the water here is used by swimmers and for water sports and last weekend was the beginning of the school holidays.’
He added: ‘I came down here on Saturday and saw [with] my own eyes the tide line of toilet paper and other solids which had been left after the discharge.
‘I don’t want my children swimming in faeces and I’m sure no one else does.’
Southern Water accepted a record £3m Ofwat fine and a £123m customer bill rebate in June for ‘serious’ wastewater treatment failures.
But the package has angered residents who say it should instead be spent on remedying the company’s infrastructure woes, such as old pipes.
Dave Parham, chairman of the Save Our Island pressure group, said: ‘It makes no sense to just fine them or give residents a refund because that doesn’t solve the problem. What the residents want to see is no repetition of the issues.’
Hayling Islander Richard Platt called the cash an ‘insult’ and said he had been asked by the Environment Agency to go to court ‘if necessary’.
‘I would far rather this money was reinvested in the infrastructure of the sewage system,’he said.
Asked about imposing infrastructure demands on Southern Water, an Ofwat spokeswoman said: ‘The proposed penalty was the subject of a consultation. The consultation closed on Friday, July 19 so we are now working through the responses to inform our final decision.’
An Environment Agency spokesman said: ‘We began a criminal investigation into Southern Water in March 2016. This was due to suspected permit breaches at a number of its sites and revealed issues that required separate consideration by Ofwat. The Environment Agency’s criminal investigation into the environmental aspect of the alleged breaches continues.’
SOUTHERN WATER ADDRESSES ANGER FROM COUNCIL AND RESIDENTS
RESPONDING to the infrastructure plea Southern Water said Hayling Island’s bathing water was currently rated ‘excellent’ by Defra.
Paul Linwood, wastewater strategy manager at Southern Water, said: ‘Storm discharges – which are a highly dilute mixture of rain run-off and wastewater and are always screened to remove any paper or other material – are permitted by the Environment Agency. Storm releases prevent the misery of internal flooding.’
He added: ‘We fully agree with Mr Wilson that investment is vital to protect the environment.
‘Between 2015 and 2020 we will have spent £3.2bn on our networks and infrastructure.
‘From 2020 to 2025 we propose to spend £4bn including £800m on enhancing the environment.’