New ‘spotlight project’ to investigate the water quality of Chichester Harbour

There is much evidence to suggest that water quality in our harbours is scandalous despite Chichester Harbour Conservancy suggesting that it is fine and better than it used to be.

Picture by Hayling Sewage Watch SUS-221001-125930003
Picture by Hayling Sewage Watch SUS-221001-125930003

Because we want to find out the truth of the matter, SOSCA has teamed up with the Clean Harbour Partnership (CHP) representing water quality officers of most of the sailing clubs.

CHP is conducting Project Spotlight, a citizen science project, with expert scientific backing and oversight by Portsmouth and Brunel Universities, aiming to:

INVESTIGATE – what’s in the water?

INFORM – all stakeholders

IMPROVE – the pollution.

The state of our harbours is deteriorating rapidly. Pollution is causing untold damage to the saltmarsh, the habitat for many endangered species including overwintering birds.

Natural England has reported that the state of Chichester Harbour is unfavourable and declining (it has been for 40 years) so the SSSI designation is threatened. NE insists on restoration of the saltmarsh to pre-1970 levels in order to retain the SSSI status.

There is growing concern about the levels of infections across the human population. Ear, nose, throat, skin and gut infections seem to be accelerating in our communities, given increasing numbers of harbour swimmers, sailors, surfers and paddle boarders who are active in these waters.

Wastewater Treatment Plants are at or close to capacity. In sustained storm conditions, overflows discharge into the harbour to prevent the flooding of homes. Stormwater discharges are supposed to be used in extreme circumstances but have become routine.

Beachbuoy, Southern Water’s real-time information webpage, tracks releases of stormwater. Do take a look, it is shocking.

We might expect the Conservancy to take up the cudgel and for many years, the Conservancy has conducted water quality sampling at 11 points around the harbour, claiming there isn’t a problem. The sampling is mostly conducted in areas of strong tidal flow, testing for just two pollutants, types of E.coli, but circa 30,000 chemicals flow through a sewage works, untreated.

Southern Water claims wastewater is a relatively small source of nitrates (ten per cent in Chichester harbour) By implication, 90 per cent comes from urban, agricultural and coastal sources. Farmers and developers for miles around are restricted when using nitrogen fertilisers or storing manures.

But are the rules enforced?

Meanwhile, official testing is hugely compromised. The harbours are not designated bathing waters so, although they have many other environmental credentials, they are rarely tested by the Environment Agency.

There is much we don’t know about the pollutants in our harbours and that is why we are supporting Project Spotlight to find out. This group will sample the water at many locations in our harbours, scientifically test it in sophisticated laboratories and collate the data in such a way that the truth of the matter will become clear.

PLEASE HELP! Spotlight will cost £25,000 and we at SOSCA are keen to support it.

See for details of how to donate. Thank you.