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Dirty Water Crisis: Portsmouth MP lobbies ministers for greater transparency and to ensure ‘history does not repeat itself’ in new investigation

Stephen Morgan MP has lobbied government demanding assurances that ‘history does not repeat itself’ and for greater transparency, after an investigation was launched by its regulators into 2000 sewage treatment works.

The investigation was announced after new checks led to water companies admitting that they could be releasing unpermitted sewage discharges into rivers and watercourses.

In a letter to the Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP, the city MP raised concerns that ‘not enough is being done presently, by regulators or government, to stop the harms of excessive sewage discharges into bathing waters across the country’. He also demanded assurances that ‘companies like Southern Water will not be allowed to continue to pollute local bathing waters’ and neglect Portsmouth’s natural water environment whilst the investigation is ongoing.

The Portsmouth MP also asked the minister to work with him to ensure regulators compel water providers to publish all of their mapped sewage pollution data for areas they have sewage outlets. Southern Water has previously provided this for areas such as Chichester Harbour, but has so far refused to share similar data models for Langstone Harbour, which recently attracted wider media attention after images were broadcast of raw sewage being released into it from a Southern Water sewage outlet.

It comes after a recent report from charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) found that:

  • 5,517 sewage discharge notifications were issued by water companies over a 12-month period, an increase of 87.6% from last year
  • 3,328 of these discharge notifications were issued throughout the bathing season and;
  • One in six days have been rendered ‘unswimmable’ due to sewage pollution during the official bathing season alone.

According to the Rivers Trust, in the Portsmouth MP’s constituency alone, sewage was pumped into local rivers for at least 617 hours in 2020, the equivalent of a nearly a month’s worth of continuous sewage discharge.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Southern Water is a repeat offender when it comes to Solent sewage pollution, and recent reports suggest nothing has changed.

“The recently launched investigation into sewage treatment works across the country is welcome, but I share the concerns of my constituents that not enough is being done right now, by regulators or government, to stop the harms of excessive sewage discharges. “Government had the opportunity to do this last month, but instead watered-down related proposed changes to its Environment Bill.

“That’s why I’ve lobbied government to ensure the it takes action to reduce the harms of sewage pollution and compels water companies to publish any mapped sewage pollution data they have, so that they can be held to account long before the investigation is closed.”