‘Serious concerns’ raised after wastewater discharged into Chichester Harbour

Swans on the water at Chichester HarbourSwans on the water at Chichester Harbour
Swans on the water at Chichester Harbour
Residents and campaigners have raised serious concerns after wastewater was discharged into Chichester Harbour earlier this month.

Southern Water has confirmed that there was ‘a small release of wastewater into part of Chichester Harbour’ due to a fault at Thornham Wastewater Treatment Works on August 4.

A spokesman said: “Despite the impact of this spill to public health being extremely low and the harbour not being a designated bathing water, we did alert the Beach Buoy service because we know that some do use the harbour for leisure activities, and are working with the Environment Agency to evaluate and conclude this matter.”

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The spokesman said the flow was screened and said there should not have been an increase in ‘visible waste’ due to the release.

However Mike Owens from Hayling Sewage Watch said he saw detritus on the high tide line ‘like clumps toilet tissue and wet wipes’ in the harbour entrance.

He added the weather was fine and beaches at West Wittering and the sandy point beach on Hayling were ‘well attended by bathers’.

Sarah Cunliffe, wildlife film-maker at Big Wave Productions, said she was ‘extremely concerned’ to learn of the sewage spill, adding: “The Chichester Harbour is a highly protected triple SSI, and also an important recreational location for thousands of people.”

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She said the harbour was under enormous stress from excess nitrate levels, which are degrading the quality of its internationally important habitats, and said: “I call for an investigation and full disclosure from Southern Water into how often sewage discharges have occurred in the Chichester Harbour this year, and why there are no backup plans to prevent waste water entering the harbour?”

Dr Ian Hendy, Coastal Marine Ecologist, University of Portsmouth, and Lead Science advisor to the ‘Help Our Kelp’ project, echoed her concerns and said the release of water sewage water would have ‘a significant impact to the many marine animals and wildlife in this highly protected area’.

“Our natural coastal ecosystems are vitally important and we need them to mitigate climate and improve our economy, yet we are losing these essential habitats rapidly,” he said.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said it had been informed of the emergency discharge made by Southern Water on this date and said: “The discharge of partially treated sewage has had a limited effect on the environment.

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“Thornham Wastewater Treatment Works is permitted to discharge partially treated sewage in the case of an emergency under certain conditions and we are currently investigating if this spill was compliant with the permit.”