RAW sewage has spewed into Langstone Harbour for almost seven days over the past month, The News can reveal.
The unscreened waste from the city’s sewers has left a heavy toll on the protected beauty spot – with dangerous plastics, sanitary items and even drowned rats littered across the shoreline.
The waste has been pouring from Southern Water’s outfall pipe at Fort Cumberland, Eastney.
Screens that filter out sewage items are inadequate and the storms over the last month have overwhelmed the filtering system.
The spillages come to a total of 160 hours since December 21 – almost seven days-worth of pollution. The Environment Agency is now investigating and the water company could face fines.
Louise MacCallum, the environment officer for Langstone Harbour, said she had been shocked at what she has seen out on her patrols.
She told The News: ‘There’s been sewage washed up on the shoreline regularly since Christmas.
‘It’s been very unsightly – sanitary towels, sanitary products and drowned sewer rats.
‘When you have a beach and it’s covered in rats – I have been shocked.
‘At the end of the day, Langstone Harbour is an internationally-important place for wildlife conservation.
‘To see this kind of thing happening is really sad.’
She added: ‘I want to work with Southern Water to make sure it’s cleaned up in a timely and effective manner.’
Hayling Councillor Andy Lenaghan had complaints from residents about the filth on the shoreline.
He said: ‘It’s unacceptable. I’m alarmed by the amount of rubbish, waste and syringes that have been washed up.’
Three years ago Southern Water was fined £150,000 for similar illegal discharges.
The company is currently carrying out work to prevent the leaks from Fort Cumberland and spending £10m on new equipment. But the work is not due to be finished until 2015.
A spokesman for the company said: ‘Our pumping stations and treatment works have been working to capacity during the torrential rain over recent weeks.
‘However, the sheer amount of water falling on already saturated ground has overwhelmed the system.
‘So, to prevent stormwater backing up and causing flooding, it has been released to Langstone Harbour – as per our Environment Agency permit.
‘While this emergency measure is standard practice in extreme wet weather, we are making major improvements in the area to reduce the risk of emergency releases like this, including a £20m scheme to divert rainwater away from some of Portsmouth’s sewers.
‘To help minimise the effect of these releases on the harbour, we have had a team out during the day removing items like wet wipes which have been washed up and we have teamed up with Havant Borough Council’s own beach cleaners to help us do this.’