The picturesque River Lavant is adding to Chichester Harbour’s pollution problems, tests have revealed.
The findings coincide with continuing calls to curb development in the area until the problems have been resolved.
Chichester Harbour Conservancy was told at its annual meeting the Environment Agency had collected regular samples of storm discharge from Southern Water’s Apuldram waste water treatment works into the harbour. And results had shown pollution levels were having an adverse effect.
Water quality testing of the River Lavant, which entered the harbour at Apuldram, was undertaken at the same time and showed lesser but still significant amounts of pollution were also entering the harbour from that source, a conservancy report added.
Conservancy members were told 19 per cent of harbour pollution was reported to come from the Apuldram works, 21 per cent from rivers – mainly the Lavant – and 60 per cent from background levels in the wider Solent or other sources in the harbour, including seabirds.
Harbourmaster Richard Craven said the Environment Agency had deduced from the test results there was an adverse impact on the harbour.
The effects needed to be mitigated, but the agency had not yet got on to what the mitigation would be. Mr Craven said biological effects on shellfish had not yet been looked at.
“This is still ongoing, and the agency is very focused on it,” he added. When results relating to shellfish were available, the agency would then be able to update its development statement.
The River Lavant samples had shown higher-than-expected levels of pollution.
Mr Craven said in a report the idea of a memorandum of understanding between the agency, the conservancy and the county and district councils was being investigated, as a tool to respond to development.
“There is a growing consensus that if water quality is not meeting the standards required by the harbour designations, increases in development will only make matters worse, and the precautionary principle should be adopted,” he added.
The agency’s current response to development always had one eye on possible appeals by developers, which weakened the strength of its advice.
A memorandum might enable the agency to be more robust, and if necessary potentially call a halt to development until problems with the sewage were resolved.
Conservancy chairman Tim Knight said it seemed odd that with all the legislation, and all that was being asked for to improve water quality, there were still these problems.