Anger as Southern Water misses another meeting with councillors about sewage discharges

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Fish floating on polluted waterway

Southern Water has apologised for missing another key meeting about water quality and sewage being dumped in waterways in Hampshire.

Councillors at the River Hamble Harbour Management Committee said they were disappointed at the water company’s lack of communication and organisation as it missed a second meeting.

The meeting was due to discuss discharges and water quality in the Hamble waters, with analysis by the website Top of the Poops showing that in 2022 the Solent was polluted by sewage 1,013 times, lasting 8,662 hours, and the river Hamble 57 times, lasting 357 hours.

At the committee on March 22nd, Southern Water was expected to make a presentation about the water quality of waterways but the authority’s marine director Jason Scott said the water company cancelled the invitation.

Recently, the water company was fined £330,000 after raw sewage spilt into a stream and killed about 2,000 fish at Waltham Chase in Hampshire in July 2019.

The company admitted breaching environmental permit regulations and said it was reviewing pumping stations.

Mr Scott said: “This is something members of this committee took very seriously. We had invited Souther Water to come along and give us a presentation after this meeting. Just before Christmas, they informed us that they were unable to attend. One week ago, they informed me that my point of contact with Southern Water would no longer be available due to the emerging activity with other businesses.

“I make it clear that this was the second time a delay was put in, and it would be rather well relevant if they wanted to do it to come along and talk to the committee. So I’ve expressed my disappointment and say that June 14th, the next committee meeting, would be a better way to talk about the water quality in the river and Solent Waters that might require some focus. So I’m pressing for a meeting on June 14th.”

Councillors were disappointed that, for the second time, the water company left them waiting.

Councillor Philpot: “I welcome what Jason said. It’s actually September 25th of last year Mr Underwood [senior stakeholder manager of Southern Water] spoke with me.

“It’s extraordinarily disappointing that they managed six months to get nowhere. I had a meeting arranged in February with Southern Water. I arrived beautifully at the given time. I got through the security gate and got up to the main building, but nobody was there. I just went around the place and my mobile phone rang about 10.05am saying ‘oh sorry, due to sickness the meeting is cancelled’.”

“So it’s not just you. They’re standing up. It seems to be that there’s a general sort of disorganisation, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on June 14th.

Councillor Rupert Kyrle said: “I’ve been speaking to Southern Water and hundreds in a forum about the same sorts of issues, sewage or discharging.

“I absolutely agree that there are some key members with whom you need to discuss these issues because it’s their main responsibility. And as Cllr Philpot says, remarkably, they seem to be unavailable even though the arranged data have meetings with them. Despite the amount of chasing, they do seem to find themselves with stuff to do other things rather than being able to engage with you about these issues.

“We even sent a list of questions two months ahead and acknowledged that they received those, but still no answers to any of those questions, and a couple of meetings subsequently failed as a result.

Councillor Kyrle suggested the possibility of inviting the Environment Agency as it is the body that holds Southern Water to account. He hoped the agency would want to discuss water quality with the river authority.

He added: “It’s a possibility that we might want to invite the Environment Agency, given that they are the body effect that is supposed to keep Southern Water in check. So possibly we might be able to invite them along, and they might be more forthcoming and want to meet us and discuss the quality issues.”

Southern Water said that due to “unforeseen circumstances”, representatives were unable to attend the meeting.

A spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry that due to unforeseen circumstances that we were unable to attend the River Hamble Harbour Authority meeting.

“We are keen to attend future meetings and talk about our plans to reduce storm overflows and answer questions.”

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