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Portsmouth MP demands answers after ‘abnormal situation’ warning for bathers

Stephen Morgan MP has demanded the Environment Agency (EA) urgently provide answers to explain the ‘abnormal situation’ reported at the weekend that advised bathers not to swim in local waters.

In a letter to the EA, the Portsmouth MP has asked for the regulator to clarify, amongst a range of concerns, what was the cause of the warning, who is responsible, can it be prevented and what conversations has it had with Southern Water (SW) about the incident.

SW has said that “No releases were made over the weekend and there were no incidents at any of our assets in the area.” and that “no evidence” of sewage pollution was found by its investigating officers.

This is despite local charity Final Straw Foundation reportedly collecting 135kg of rubbish and dirty wipes from the area on Saturday morning.

It comes after the EA issued a record £90m SW in July this year, after it was prosecuted by the EA for at least 6,971 unpermitted sewage discharges between 2010 and 2015.

Meanwhile, it is the second year in a row the water utility has performed below target, with the EA labelling SW’s performance as “consistently unacceptable during the last 5 years” in its environmental performance report for 2020. It also said the water utility was “significantly below target (red) for the Environmental Performance Assessment sewerage incidents metric”.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

“Reports from the weekend are deeply concerning and the quality of our bathing water is a significant concern for many of my constituents.

“There seems to be a clear difference between what Southern Water is saying and the water local people are witnessing.

“The government and its regulator need to provide assurances to the people of Portsmouth that our local environment is being properly protected and that industry is living up to its responsibilities.

“It’s vital we get to the bottom of this ‘abnormal incident’ quickly to understand the cause, lessons can be learnt to prevent it from happening again and those responsible can be held to account. Any wrongdoing must be dealt with robustly.”

Mr Morgan has been campaigning for Government to finally end sewage discharge and calling on water companies to tackle the issue with real investment and urgency. He has taken a range of actions including raising questions in the House of Commons, lobbying Ministers, holding Southern Water to account and working alongside a number of local groups in the city.

The Portsmouth MP has also called for constituents to share their concerns with him about sewage discharge to build the case to government to take action. Over 250 people have already shared their views in the last 24 hours.. This can be accessed at: https://www.stephenmorgan.org.uk/solent-sewage-discharge/