ENVIRONMENT Agency officers are probing Southern Water over pumping sewage into the harbour, The News can reveal.
Investigators confirmed the agency is looking into possible breaches of the utility firm’s permit to release waste into Langstone Harbour.
It comes after a weekend of heavy rainfall that saw waste water poured into the waters as containment tanks filled to overflowing.
Southern Water previously said the releases into the harbour ‘are regulated and permitted’ by the Environment Agency.
On Sunday there were releases of sewage from outlets at Henderson Road in Eastney, Budds Farm in Havant, Fort Cumberland and Court Lane in Cosham.
Windsurfer Mike Owens has long campaigned for the discharge to stop – but accepts it would cost millions for Southern Water to do so.
Mike, from Hayling Island, said he has previously suffered ill health after using the water for windsurfing.
‘I’m really concerned about stuff that comes out of the Henderson Road outlet – that comes out near the harbour entrance,’ he said.
‘I went out windsurfing on Sunday and I finished because I saw the rain coming.
‘I didn’t go out the following day – I’ve had surgery as a result of pollution in my ears.’
He wants Havant Borough Council, which covers Hayling, to publish immediately the alerts it gets from Southern Water warning of sewage discharges.
Portsmouth City Council is putting pressure on the firm to build a new sewer line to serve the north of the city after its leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said there were 29 times last year sewage was discharged into Langstone Harbour.
Yesterday Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Langstone Harbour is a wonderful and beautiful area and Southern Water shouldn’t be pumping sewage into it.’
Southern Water previously said it is ‘committed to minimising our releases wherever possible’ and had spent £50m to tackle releases and flooding in the area.
An e-mail dated in April from the Environment Agency to Havant MP Alan Mak’s office said: ‘We have prosecuted Southern Water on two occasions for breaches of their discharge permits relating to Langstone Harbour and we are currently investigating further breaches.’
A Southern Water spokesman said: ‘This is a complex and emotive issue but we can assure people we are committed to minimising our releases wherever possible and protecting the environment around Langstone Harbour.
‘During or following rainfall, all water companies, including Southern Water, sometimes release heavily-diluted wastewater into watercourses and coastal waters to prevent flooding of streets and homes inland. These stormwater releases are in line with our strict environmental permits and permitted by the Environment Agency to prevent homes from flooding. We can confirm this was the case following the heavy rainfall last weekend with as much as 23 mm falling over the weekend.
‘We have spent more than £50m in recent years to reduce the risk of flooding and the frequency of our releases in this area.
‘In regards to any significant future investment, we have a meeting planned with the council to discuss the situation further and will work closely with the council, local residents and other interested parties.’
Cllr Gary Hughes, cabinet lead for contracts and commercial services at Havant Borough Council, said: ‘Hayling Island has been proudly flying the Blue Flag over its beach for 27 consecutive years this summer.
‘Although Blue Flags represent more than just water quality regular Environmental Agency testing has shown that the cleanliness of the sea here is consistently rated as excellent.
‘Naturally, water quality fluctuates, especially after heavy rain which can wash debris off roads and into drains and add pressure to Southern Water’s sewage system.
‘We join other councils in calling for Southern Water to continue to improve the way it treats and disposes of waste water and sewage.
‘Southern Water does notify the council and its partners if waste is likely to be issued into Langstone Harbour. Once that has happened then the effect of tides, currents and weather conditions make it difficult to predict if the water at Hayling will be affected.
‘The Environment Agency issues up-to-date water quality information online and we would recommend that residents check that out if they are concerned.’