Council leader calls for action over water quality

Havant Borough Council has revealed plans to work with other organisations to lobby for improved water quality testing after a meeting with Southern Water.

The council’s leader, Michael Wilson recently met a representative of the water company after writing to his discuss the effects of untreated stormwater releases into the sea following heavy rainfall.

Wilson said he was told at the meeting that there have been 146 releases so far this year, which is more than 20 a month.

“Water quality is not currently monitored in Langstone Harbour and I would like to see our residents provided with accurate and timely information so that they may make informed decisions regarding bathing and watersports activities,” said the council leader.

“I will arrange a meeting as soon as I can with Portsmouth City Council, the Environment Agency and Southern Water to outline how we can step up robust water quality testing and monitoring.

“I have told Southern Water that Havant Borough Council is prepared to take samples and I want us to work together to ensure the samples are tested and analysed to provide detailed information about the quality of the water on our beaches and harbours,” he added.

“And if the quality is unacceptable, then this could support a case for the borough to become part of Southern Water’s ‘bathing water enhancement programme’ which would see greater investment in our area.”

In June, Southern Water agreed to pay £126 million in penalties and payments to customers following serious failures in the operation of its sewage treatment sites and for “deliberately misreporting” its performance.

Southern Water’s stakeholder manager for Hampshire, Samuel Underwood, said: “Our stormwater releases protect homes, businesses and streets from flooding and are permitted by the Environment Agency.

“We are piloting voluntary stormwater release notifications into the harbour via our Beachbuoy service, which we plan to automate in the future,” he added.

“Beachbuoy would be complemented by independent water quality testing conducted by local councils. A similar process is working well in neighbouring Chichester Harbour.

“While water quality in Langstone Harbour is not measured by the Environment Agency, the modelling we have carried out suggests it is at the bathing water ‘excellent’ standard 95 per cent of the time. Meanwhile, all local bathing waters are deemed to have ‘excellent’ bathing water quality by the Environment Agency, some for as many as 29 years.”