Chichester District Council has shared its disappointment at the news that several water companies may have been releasing illegal amounts of sewage into rivers and watercourses.
A new national investigation has been launched into sewage treatment works by the Environment Agency and Water Services Regulation Authority, Ofwat. The Environment Agency is responsible for licensing and enforcing water companies, while Ofwat is responsible for regulating and monitoring them.
In light of the news, Chichester District Council has reassured residents that it will closely monitor the progress of this investigation and continue to lobby for improved water services in the area.
Cllr Penny Plant, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Chichester Contract Services, says: “We know that our residents have been concerned about the water quality in some areas of the Chichester District for some time, in particular Chichester harbour, and this is something that we have been working hard to help address.
“Over the past few years, we have been liaising with Southern Water, which is responsible for wastewater, and the Environment Agency, which is responsible for enforcing the discharges into the harbour from premises that require permits, such as the wastewater treatment plants. We have also been working closely with our partners in the Chichester Water Quality group — the Environment Agency, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, the RSPB and Natural England — to help improve water quality and protect our harbours for the future.
Cllr Susan Taylor, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning, adds: “We do not know if Southern Water is being investigated but it’s very disappointing to hear that this investigation is needed, particularly following the prosecution of Southern Water in 2017 for illegal discharges in our area, as well as in Kent, Hampshire, and other parts of Sussex.
“However, this investigation is very important to ensure that all water companies are following the standards in place, and so that they can be held to account if they are found to be failing to meet their legal duties. The investigation is already underway and will assess more than 2,000 sewage treatment works. Any company caught breaching their legal permits, will face a fine or prosecution.
“As many of you will know, waste water and water quality are key considerations for planning applications and our emerging Local Plan. We want to assure people that we will be working closely with both the Environment Agency and Ofwat, to understand more about the impacts for our local environment, as well as how this investigation and its outcomes may affect the council’s work from a planning point of view.
“Please be assured that we will be sharing any updates we receive, and will continue to work closely with the Environment Agency and Ofwat to help preserve our harbours and improve our waters for the years to come.”