The ‘Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill’ and its applicability to the issue of Solent pollution

Over the last ten days of 2020, Settled Storm Overflows (SSOs) from Southern Water’s Budds Farm holding tanks at Havant accounted for 172 hours – that’s over 7 days of almost continuous discharge into Langstone Harbour. These spills are additional to the regular and frequent discharges by Southern Water from multiple Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) around the Solent region. The fact that these discharges are legitimised by Environment Agency permits reinforces the urgency with which these permits need to be reassessed. With significant house building across the Solent Area, we believe that a reassessment of Southern Water’s current operations and future investment plans is long overdue.

It is therefore timely that we focus on the Philip Dunne’s Private Member’s Bill, the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill, which receives its second reading in the House of Commons on January 15.

The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill places a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters. The Bill will require water companies to set out plans progressively to reduce their reliance on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). It proposes increasing levels of transparency, as firms will be mandated to report publicly not just on the frequency and extent of sewage discharges from CSOs and any other sewer catchment assets, but also on the impact on water quality as this is enabled by advances in technology.

The Bill also proposes measures to upgrade drainage infrastructure to separate household sewage from surface water drainage, helping reduce the risk of overspills. It includes measures to reduce harmful products such as non-biodegradable wet wipes, commercial fats and oils from being disposed down the drains. It also proposes measures to expand the number of inland bathing waters and establish targets to increase those classified as “good” or “excellent”.

We urge you to read the content of Philip Dunne’s webpage by clicking this link., and encourage you to contact your Member of Parliament to ask that they support this important private members when it receives its second reading in the house of commons. To find the contact details and email address for your MP, please take this link, enter your post code and follow the directions.

We are seeking clarification that this Bill will also cover direct spills into the coastal estuaries and harbours which make up the water sources for the ancient river basin which is the Solent. SPS are deeply concerned about the scale of pollution of the Solent waters and welcome this Bill as an initiative which raises public and government awareness of the issue.