Water watchdog under fire over sewage pollution at River Lavant

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Water industry regulator Ofwat was blamed for lack of action over sewage pollution in the Chichester area at a recent meeting of the district council.

Cllr John Connor, council cabinet member for environment, described the situation as a ‘scandal’. He was responding to a question from Cllr Henry Potter about the growing ‘disgusting’ discharge of sewage into the River Lavant.

“This has been going on for years, but nothing ever seems to be done about it,” Cllr Potter declared. Cllr Connor said he shared concerns about untreated sewage being discharged into any of the local water courses.

“This is due to overloading of the sewerage system and the drainage system, at the moment,” he said.

“A lot of it is happening because of the huge amount of water draining down from the Downs as a result of downpours.”

They were acutely aware this was something Southern Water would like to put right.

“But Southern Water’s main problem is that Ofwat will not allow them to do a lot of it because the cost benefit of the work does not stack up,” said Cllr Connor.

“This is a scandal, and we have to ask if Owat cannot be persuaded to take some other course.”

Southern Water was responsible, and approached the Environment Agency when it had a problem, and got permission from the agency to carry out the discharge.

“This is the plain fact,” he told the council.

“It is better sewage being discharged into water courses than just left to overflow, and possibly go into people’s homes. But it is still wrong that it should happen.

“We have tried through Environment Agency officers to get some action taken against Southern Water. This is not yet completely resolved.”

The fact was the council itself had no legal power to take action. He was going to a meeting shortly where Southern Water would be represented, and would take up the matter.

Cllr John Elliott said health and safety issues were involved.

“In previous years, there have been signs warning people not to get near the river,” he added. “This has not been done this year. Can this be taken up?”