Southern Water: Five-day release into Chichester Harbour is ‘99 per cent rain water’

Southern Water spent more than 90 hours this week releasing ‘99 per cent rain water’ into Chichester Harbour in a move which ‘may be affecting water quality’ according to its website.
Prinsted Harbour. Pic S RobardsPrinsted Harbour. Pic S Robards
Prinsted Harbour. Pic S Robards

Last week, the water company was fined £90m for releasing up to 21 billion litres of untreated sewage into protected waters between 2019 and 2015.

Today (July 16), Southern Water’s website for bathing waters has an alert for Chichester Harbour, which reads: “A Southern Water release may be affecting water quality.”

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In a list of releases, the latest from Mill Lane, Fishbourne, said the release began on Monday (July 12) at 3.17pm and was ongoing today (July 16).

Chichester Harbour Trust said on Twitter: “Nearly 90hrs of discharge at Mill Lane Fishbourne into the Harbour in dry weather 12-16 July - what is happening? @SouthernWater @EnvAgencySE.”

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A Southern Water spokesperson said: “We can confirm this was a storm release following heavy rain in the area of 99 per cent rainwater made for one reason - to protect homes and businesses from flooding. This is because in areas constructed before the 1980s surface water drains were typically connected to the sewer system.

“Such storm releases are typically made through long sea outfalls and are screened through a 6mm mesh. The Chichester wastewater treatment works additionally has UV treatment on the outlet which kills bacteria. This is unfortunately not practical on all sites.”

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On whether it is safe to bathe in the waters, the spokesperson said: “It is not Southern Water’s role to close beaches or otherwise advise recreational water users – this information will come from council environmental health or beach teams if they believe there is any risk.

“We lead the industry in disclosure of releases events through our Beach Buoy service and we put the sector’s most detailed environmental information on line here:

“Beachbuoy now covers all designated bathing waters and additionally we provide information affecting Chichester and Langstone Harbours which although not designated by Defra are popular with recreational water users.”