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Water firm is fined for pollution in harbour

Published in the Portsmouth News on Friday 15th April 2011 

A WATER firm has been fined £50,000 for polluting a harbour.

Southern Water admitted 36 illegal discharges into highly-protected Langstone Harbour over a five-month period.

At Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court yesterday the Worthing-based company pleaded guilty to letting unscreened sewage pour from an outfall pipe into the water at Eastney for the equivalent of 24 hours a day for more than 12 days.

Storm overflow pipes discharge directly into rivers or the sea when the level in the sewage system rises too high – often due to heavy rain.

These discharges are permitted by the Environment Agency under strict conditions.

Any sewage discharge must pass through a screening device and should be maintained and in full working order.

But Environment Agency officers discovered screening devices there were not working and effluent was being discharged unscreened between November 4, 2009 and April 19, 2010.

Miriam Joy, from the Environment Agency, said: ‘Prosecution is usually the last resort for us, but it is clear that the operations at Fort Cumberland could not be tolerated.

‘The discharges continued over a period of five months without anything being done to prevent them and without the Environment Agency being informed about long-standing problems at the site.

‘It is disappointing that Southern Water did not have planned maintenance programmes, contracts and spare parts available to deal with such a breakdown with their systems, particularly when they were fully aware how sensitive the harbour is.

‘I hope this case sends out a clear message to Southern Water that any pollution must be avoided or stopped as soon as possible.’

A spokeswoman for Southern Water said they had tried to fix the screens and improvements have been made ahead of a planned £10m refurbishment.

Wastewater quality manager Graham Purvis said: ‘We deeply regret these incidents and apologise for them.’ The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs totalling £5,907.

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