GEOFF Cooper has criticised Southern Water after the release of new Environment Agency data on the pollution levels in the River Test.

The Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) data, which measures the frequency and duration of spills from storm overflows in England for 2023, shows a 116 per cent increase in the total number of sewage spills by Southern Water compared to 2022.

Whilst 2023 was named by the Met Office as the sixth wettest year since its records began in 1836, heavy rainfall does not affect water companies’ responsibility to manage storm overflows in line with legal requirements.

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In addition, a new interactive data portal was also launched by the Environment Agency, making the data more accessible to the public.

Hampshire Chronicle: Geoff CooperGeoff Cooper (Image: Contributed)

Using this portal, it is possible to see that there have been 467 separate incidents of sewage spills, leading to more than 8,500 hours of spills by Southern Water into the River Test between Chilbolton and Millbrook in 2023 alone.

Geoff Cooper, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Romsey, said: “Sadly, this data only confirms exactly what those of us who have been fighting to save the Test and other rivers and waterways, have been saying for years.

“This is why we gathered outside Southern Water’s Fullerton works earlier this month. The river keepers, anglers and residents living along the River Test have been shouting as loud as they possibly can, that more needs to be done to protect our precious chalk streams.

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“This government has been deaf to those calls and blind to the situation on the ground. They have failed to give adequate funding to the Environment Agency or Ofwat and neither agency has proved to be effective in protecting our rivers and holding the water companies to account.

“Back in January last year, government MPs voted against measures which would have helped to tackle this crisis, including our own Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes.

“It is unbelievable that Conservative MPs have allowed water firms to get away with this environmental vandalism. Local people are furious that those Tory politicians blocked tougher action on the water companies.”

John Penicud, the director for wastewater operations at Southern Water, said: “Slashing the number of storm releases is top priority for us - and our customers. Last November we announced our £1.5 billion storm overflow reduction plan which will combine innovative engineering with nature-based solutions. 

“The past 18 months have been the rainiest since records began. The ground is utterly waterlogged in many areas, inundating our own sewers and customers’ drains and sewers. 

“We’re extensively relining sewers, to keep sewage in and rainwater out, and our storm release reduction pilot schemes have already proved that nature-based systems can have a real impact.”