Thunderstorms mean more wastewater may be dumped in sea

Persistent thunderstorms across the South may well lead to an increase in wastewater entering the Solent.

That is the message from Southern Water amid a week of constant storms, with heavy rain forecast by the Met Office from now until the end of Thursday.

During periods of intense rainfall, Hampshire’s sewer network can become overwhelmed by rainwater, forcing Southern Water to release the excess water back into the ocean.

Southern Water has come under heavy criticism for the volume of waste it releases, with Environment Agency figures showing that raw sewage has been pumped into the region every 43 minutes on average over the past five years.

The firm insists the discharges from heavy rainfall are ‘heavily diluted’.

A spokeswoman for Southern Water said: ‘Rain can overwhelm the combined sewer and drainage system which exists in many parts of our region.

‘To protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding, storm overflows act as a release value and release excess water into the sea.

‘These discharges are heavily diluted, typically being 95 per cent rainwater. There are around 15,000 storm overflows in England and approximately 1,000 in our region.’

According to Southern Water, the heavy rainfall collects unflushable items in the sewage network and flushes it to the pumping stations.

This causes blockages, clogging up the network and opening the storm overflows.

The water company is spending £2bn between 2020 and 2025, with the majority of the money going towards improving wastewater assets and environmental performance.

A task force has also been set up to ‘significantly’ reduce overflows by 2030, and a service called Beachbuoy allows residents to see when discharges are taking place – and where.

But Conservative MP for Winchester, Steve Brine, believes action must be taken sooner rather than later, with government targets for reducing overflows stretching into 2035.

He said: ‘What we need here in this whole debate is some cool, some balance, and deal in the facts. There has been some deeply grubby, irresponsible scaremongering over this summer from some of the usual suspects.

‘So, in the spirit of honesty and truth, 2035, which I appreciate is a long way away, is just too long for many of my constituents.’

Southern Water’s hosepipe ban is still in place for all fresh water customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Those households that are supplied by Portsmouth Water have not been affected by this.

Since the storms hit at the start of the week, no burst pipes have yet been reported in Hampshire.

A national flood warning was in place at the start of the week, but there are currently none active throughout the country – although the wet weather looks set to continue.