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BCP Council environment chief Cllr Mark Anderson urged to give water quality update, as Southern Water launches taskforce to reduce storm overflows

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BCP Council's environment chief is being called on to report to councillors about sewage discharges into the sea from local beaches.

The council’s overview and scrutiny committee would also like to hear from the water companies and environment agency, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Urging Conservative cabinet member Cllr Mark Anderson to give an update, fellow Tory Cllr David Kelsey, chair of the planning committee, said the issue needed to be tackled as soon as possible.

There has been a massive public backlash over discharges into rivers
There has been a massive public backlash over discharges into rivers

He said: “We rely so heavily on tourism for the progress of this conurbation. It is fundamentally the most important business function that we have in the area.

"We need to look at this as a matter of urgency. We need to have answers to questions and Cllr Anderson in his role in the environment needs to pull his finger out and come and give us a very full and detailed report on this."

Liberal Democrat Cllr Vikki Slade said the issue was about a lack of investment which had led to pollution.

She said the questions she and other councillors had been asking about Poole Harbour were making slow progress, adding: “We’re not happy with what we are getting.

“It could offer reassurance for residents and visitors.”

Meanwhile, a taskforce to reduce storm overflows by 80% by 2030 has been launched by Southern Water in the wake of the public outcry over the amount of sewage being released into waterways.

The company announced that the initiative is part of their zero-tolerance approach to pollution and is aimed at improving water quality in the area. News of the taskforce comes not long after Southern Water was fined a record £90m for polluting sites – including Beaulieu River – in what the judge termed a "shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment".

Southern Water's recently announced £1.5b investment programme aspires to reduce by 80% all pollution incidents by 2025.

In future, Southern Water says it will focus on nature-based solutions to heavy rainfall including ponds, wetlands, soakaways and rain gardens. It is also working on separating rainwater from the sewer system.

Southern Water says the “heavily regulated releases of wastewater” during heavy downpours is an “integral part of the Victorian-era sewage system” and protects peoples’ homes. But the company admits that its customers have “made it clear” that this is “no longer acceptable.”

Ian McAulay, Southern Water's CEO, said: "There is a growing call to take action to reduce the frequency and impact of storm overflows. That is a task of scale and complexity and needs multi-sector collaboration and a join up of policy to make it happen, which of course appears difficult today."

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