Portsmouth campaigners demand 'urgent meeting' with Southern Water boss over 'horrific' 49-hour sewage discharge

OUTRAGED campaigners have demanded an ‘urgent’ meeting with Southern Water over the ‘horrific’ amount of sewage the firm is dumping into the sea.

By Tom Cotterill
Monday, 1st November 2021, 1:04 pm

The call comes days after the company pumped untreated sewage into Langstone harbour for 49 hours straight.

Wastewater oozed into Langstone from Southern’s treatment plant at Budds Farm, with effluent streaming into the sea from 2.15am on October 20 to 3.15am on October 22.

See the video with this story by Chris Pearsall Photography.

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Southern Water's Budds Farm outfall photographed pouring out untreated sewage at 3.42pm on October 21 2021. Picture: Chris Pearsall Commercial Photography

The situation appalled environmental activists and residents across Portsmouth and came just three months after Southern was fined a record £90m for 6,971 unpermitted sewage discharges between 2010 and 2015.

Now Councillor Darren Sanders, chairman of the Langstone Harbour Board, has demanded an urgent meeting with Southern’s chief executive, Ian McAulay.

Cllr Sanders said: ‘The horrific pictures of the 49-hour discharge has crystalised everything that is wrong with Southern Water.

‘They have been fined £90m because of their discharges. You would have thought they would have learnt their lesson but they clearly haven’t.

‘Southern Water needs to say what they are going to do because I think the time for words is over and the time for action has begun. This is pretty urgent. People are very angry.’

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The plea comes just days after ministers U-turned to insist water firms will be punished for overflowing sewers.

Peers had proposed an amendment to the Environment Bill last week in an attempt to cut pollution. But a subsequent Commons vote saw Tory MPs vote down the new law, sparking a backlash from eco-campaigners.

Facing defeat in Parliament, environment secretary George Eustice pledged an amendment to enshrine in law a new duty ‘to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows’.

However, environmental activists in Portsmouth say the new legislation does not go far enough and that Southern needs to do more to overhaul the area’s sewage system to prevent future flows.

Sarah Shreeve, organiser of Stop the Sewage Southsea, said people had started to refuse to swim in the Solent over fears the water had been contaminated with human excrement.

She added: ‘Southern Water is profiteering at the expense of our national economy and local people’s health and wellness.

‘They are treating our sewage systems like a cash cow by refusing to invest in the system. It needs to stop.’

A spokesman for Southern said it was ‘always happy to engage with stakeholders’ to help them ‘understand’ what the company is doing.

Mr McAulay added Southern was aiming to do more to improve its sewage system and said: ‘We are already acting now to cut pollution incidents by 80 per cent over the next four years and we believe we can achieve a similar reduction in storm releases by 2030.

‘All 83 of our bathing waters meet strict European standards, a challenge which 20 years ago seemed impossible, but was delivered. Now we want to take the next steps which is why we are investing over £2bn on improving our wastewater network. This investment is on track and is already making a tangible difference in communities across our region.’

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