A WATER company has been criticised for the sheer scale of raw sewage it has dumped into the unique chalk streams in the Winchester area.

As previously reported, Southern Water has discharged untreated sewage into Hampshire’s fragile chalk streams including the rivers Itchen, Meon, and the River Hamble, for on 429 – totalling nearly 6,994 hours.

Data from the government, and compiled by the Rivers Trust, relates to 15 sewage storm overflows in 2020.

Now, the Test and Itchen Association, which is made up of those with an interest in the county’s chalk streams, has reacted to the data.

Executive director Jeremy Legge said: “It is unacceptable – and profoundly depressing – that Hampshire’s chalk streams are being consistently and repeatedly polluted by Southern Water. The results are only too evident in the significant declines we have seen in the number and diversity of the invertebrates, the flies and bugs that form the foot of the chalk stream food chain, over the last few years.

SEE MORE: Southern Water discharged raw sewage into Winchester's chalk streams

“Southern Water need to invest much more in upgrading and replacing their inadequate infrastructure.

“The Environment Agency, the regulators, need to force the pace and hold them to account. The penalties for false and misleading reporting need to be much more stringent. Work is being done by Southern Water, but far too slowly.”

Last year Southern Water was fined a record £90 million for dumping raw sewage into watercourses that flow in the Solent.

The company has said that it is investing £2 billion into its wastewater network and a Pollution Incident Reduction Plan, which is expected to deliver an 80 per cent reduction in pollution incidents and storm overflows.

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A Southern Water spokesperson said: “The Rivers Trust is a key partner of Southern Water and we work together on many crucial environmental programmes and share common goals.

“The most common cause of releases is storm overflows when rainwater threatens to overwhelm the system and cause flooding to homes, schools and businesses. Under tightly regulated permits, we release this 95 per cent rainwater from overflows to prevent this. This is increasingly unacceptable to customers across the nation and we hear the message clearly.

“A major issue in Hampshire is high groundwater which forces its way into our sewers or private pipes. We have a major project in seven parishes south of Andover where this problem is especially acute. Monitoring and surveying allow us to determine when the risk is increasing and we use tankers initially to extract from strategic points in the sewer to take away excess for treatment in places with more capacity. If levels continue to rise then mobile wastewater treatment equipment is installed and used under monitoring by the Environment Agency meeting the key priorities of serving customers, preventing flooding and protecting the environment.”

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Kimberley Barber