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Environment Agency report slams 'terrible' Southern Water and South West Water over repeated pollution incidents

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A DAMNING new report from the Environment Agency has slammed two water companies that serve the New Forest and Christchurch and raised the prospect of bosses being jailed.

The 2021 environmental performance report on UK water and sewerage companies said Southern Water and South West Water fell to a one-star rating meaning their performance was “terrible across the board”.

Both companies were slated over repeated pollution incidents and failing to comply with permits, with concerns raised over the security of Southern Water’s supply and its planning.

Sewage discharge at Bartley Water
Sewage discharge at Bartley Water

The report said: “We would like to see prison sentences for chief executives and board members whose companies are responsible for the most serious incidents.

“We would also like to see company directors being struck off so they cannot simply delete illegal environmental damage from their CV and move on to their next role.”

Southern Water, which supplies water and wastewater services on the Waterside and wastewater treatment services as far as Lymington and Christchurch, was criticised 16 times in the report.

Part of Pennon Group, South West Water – the owners of Bournemouth Water which supplies drinking water from Poole to Beaulieu and to just south of Salisbury – was criticised 12 times.

The report said both Southern Water and South West Water “continued to perform significantly below target” on sewerage pollution incidents since 2015.

Last year Southern Water was fined a record £90m for polluting waterways, including Beaulieu River, after discharging effluent 7,000 times in five years.

The new report says Southern Water and South West Water continue to perform “significantly below target” on complying with permits on sewage treatment and on balancing supply and demand.

The report said there were 62 serious pollution incidents throughout the UK in 2021 and Southern Water was responsible for 12 of them, although South West Water was also noted to have performed ‘significantly below target’.

According to the report, Southern Water and South West Water were “the only two water companies” in the country to perform “significantly below target” on the number of pollution incidents they have been responsible for since 2005.

Both companies were slated for their lack of compliance with permits on discharging treated wastewater, with Southern Water criticised over its lack of progress on environmental improvement schemes.

The report also singled out Southern Water as being “significantly below target” on the security of its water supply.

The report adds that in terms of water resources planning: “Southern Water was the only company with significant issues. It had a significant supply shortage due to outage because of assets not in operation and non-delivery of a new supply scheme.”

A South West Water spokesperson said: “We are disappointed to receive this assessment for 2021 and this is not where we want to be.

“The investments and changes we are already making across our network are delivering real results, including a one-third reduction in pollution incidents last year.”

Southern Water was approached for a comment.

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