Southsea Swimmers hold protest against sewage in the sea

Swimmers from Southsea gathered on the coast today, to protest against pollution on Eastney and Southsea East beaches.

They're calling for Southern Water to improve the way it handles sewage in the area, and to ensure that water remains clean for swimmers to enjoy.

The protest, which took place today (Saturday 16th October) saw members of the public gather with signs calling for cleaner water.

It was organised by Stop the sewage Southsea, which was formed by local swimmer Sarah Shreeve.

Sarah swam with friends in the Southsea area last weekend, and since then said members of the swimming group became unwell, whilst others developed rashes.

Watch: Sarah Shreeve explains why the group are protesting against Southern Water.

Meanwhile fellow swimmer, Rachel Whitfield, said she attended the protest today to raise awareness about poor water quality.

She said that "many people swim to protect their mental health, and if they're unable to swim that has a negative impact."

She added that it isn't right to not be able to swim, or to let her children swim on their local beach.

Watch: Rachel Whitfield, a local swimmer, explains why she attended the protest.

Their campaign has also had support from a local MP, who is calling for action to be taken over poor quality bathing water.

Stephen Morgan MP said in a statement:

"What we saw last weekend is deeply concerning and the quality of our bathing water is a severe concern for many of us.

"There seems to be a clear difference between what Southern Water is saying and the water local people were witnessing, which is why I wrote to the Environment Agency earlier this week demanding answers over last weekend’s ‘abnormal situation’.

"The government and its regulator need to provide assurances to the people of Portsmouth that our local environment is being properly protected and that industry is living up to its responsibilities.

"It’s vital we get to the bottom of this ‘abnormal incident’ quickly to understand the cause, lessons can be learnt to prevent it from happening again and those responsible can be held to account. Any wrongdoing must be dealt with robustly."

In response to the protests today, Southern Water issued the following statement:

"We take all customer feedback about the performance of our network very seriously and are committed to protecting the environment in which we operate – we are listening to the concerns being raised at this protest, and urge customers to continue to voice their points of view to support change.

"Southern Water is committed to being open and transparent about wastewater releases, and our pollution reporting and online CSO release portal, Beachbuoy, are evidence of this.

"With a near £2 billion spend on our infrastructure and environmental protection and enhancement, we are prioritising the needs of customers, protecting the environment and boosting local economies around our 700 miles of coastline.

"Storm releases during intense periods of rainfall are made through long sea outfalls usually around 2km out to sea and are not raw sewage as many believe, but are often more than 95% rainwater. They are made for one reason, to protect customers’ homes, schools and businesses from flooding. This activity is tightly regulated by the Environment Agency.

"We are working towards reducing our reliance on storm releases but there are huge challenges, from climate change which we know is going to increase the frequency of intense rainfall events and population growth.

"We are pioneering a new approach – building more storm tank capacity where it will have an impact – but prioritising partnership working to prevent rain from reaching our systems through sustainable drainage, water gardens and major natural capital solutions such as enhanced and expanded wetlands.

"We engage closely with local and national users groups, including Surfers Against Sewage which regularly attend meetings to discuss our Beachbuoy app and our current and future investment plans and delivery.

"We welcome those involved with the protest to meet with us. To hear about our work, our investment and our commitment to improve service to our customers and discuss ways to work together to achieve a goal we share, to protect the environment."