Havant Borough Council has joined more than 20 other local authorities in the southeast in writing to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as part of a campaign to hold the water company responsible for pollution and infrastructure failures.
Also highlighting concerns of flooding, collectively the councils are calling for the government to hand more resources to the Environment Agency to take action against Southern Water.
At a recent meeting, the Stakeholder Group made up of 25 local authorities from across Hampshire, West Sussex, and Kent was joined by representatives from the Environment Agency - the regulator for water quality and the ecological health of rivers and coastal waters and which manages the risk of flooding.
Simon Moody, the Environment Agency’s area director for Solent and South Downs, said the organisation is holding water companies – including Southern Water - to account to reduce pollution, tackle storm overflows and invest more of their profits into the environment.
Southern Water - responsible for waste water across the region and for drinking water in other parts of the south east - performs poorly in a national rating scheme with two stars out of four and has previously had to apologise for a catalogue of issues including flooding, sewage seeping into people’s homes, gardens and roads, the ongoing problem of discharges into rivers and waterways and the inability to deal with additional development.
Some of the steps the water company says it has taken to alleviate flooding so far includes reducing storm overflows and pollution and improving communications to keep customers regularly informed during water outages and flooding incidents.
It has also fitted pressure sensors to manholes across its network, which trigger when full – and this can also be reported by members of the public to an incident hotline.
Councillor Elizabeth Lloyd, Cabinet Lead for Planning, Environmental Health and the Environment, including Water Quality, at Havant Borough Council said: “As a council, we have major concerns about some of the actions taken by Southern Water. Their performance surrounding the number of pollution incidents that occur in our borough’s coastal waters is not satisfactory.
“We are not the only ones to have these concerns, and by coming together in partnership with other authorities to form this stakeholder group, we hope to be able to hold Southern Water to account on behalf of all our residents, tourism visitors and water sport enthusiasts.”
The next meeting of the Southern Water Stakeholder Group will be held early next year.