IN 2020 Southern Water released untreated sewage directly into rivers on 19,782 occasions, totalling almost 200,000 which resulted in a lengthy court battle and a fine of £90 million pounds.

The local Liberal Democrats party have started a campaign following the rejection by Conservative MPs of an amendment proposed by the House of Lords to the Environment Bill which would have legally forced water companies to stop allowing untreated releases.

Last week, Liberal Democrats from Test Valley and Southampton visited Southern Water in Otterbourne after launching a petition now signed by 539 local residents calling for Southern Water executives to hand back their sizeable bonuses saying: “in the face of a climate emergency, there should be no rewards for polluting our planet.”

The Liberal Democrat team also met with Dr Toby Willison, Southern Water’s director of Environment and Public Affairs, and the company’s stakeholder manager for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Steve Court, to discuss the ongoing crisis and what steps Southern Water are taking to deal with it.

David Hall, chairman of Test Valley Liberal Democrats said: “We are grateful to Southern Water for their openness. Company executives are rightly holding themselves accountable for the unacceptable, systematic, and deliberate sewage dumping in the past. But they still have a long way to go to stop sewage entering our waterways.

“The company seems to be moving in the right direction with plans to introduce more robust monitoring of bacteria and pollution levels in our waterways, and nature-based solutions to deal with runoff from drains, roofs, and roads.

“This isn’t just about bashing water companies. Local councils, planning authorities and developers have a huge role to play in bringing forward better plans for new developments which reduce rather than add to the volumes of wastewater being pushed through a constrained system.

Dr Willison said: “Local politicians such as the Test Valley Liberal Democrats are key stakeholders for us and a vital link with our customers. We held a highly productive meeting with the group. We were held to account for our legacy as is right, but we were delighted with the very positive engagement on key programmes we are working on to protect the environment and better serve customers.

“Among other topics, we were able to help people understand why storm releases of 95 per cent or more rainwater happen, and what we are doing to tackle this issue of national concern.

“We have pledged to cut pollution incidents caused by equipment failure and other reasons by 80 per cent by 2025. We have also launched a taskforce to tackle storm releases. We believe these releases, made to protect homes and business from flooding by 80 per cent by 2030.

“The Test and Itchen rivers are extraordinary habitats and have even been described as ‘England’s rainforests’. We are totally committed to ensuring the future health of these and all the rivers in our region.”

Romsey's Conservative MP, Caroline Nokes rebelled against her parties decision to not support the amendment. She was unavailable for comment but councillor Nick Adams-King said on her behalf: "I’m pleased our local MP, Caroline Nokes, supported the Lords’ amendment. Given the very considerable local concerns around Southern Water it was the right thing to do. Holding water companies to account and engaging them to ensure their service to all residents improves is vital, which is what Caroline and I are doing.”

The petition can be found online at