'I'm absolutely furious' - MP Steve Brine condemns Southern Water over supply issues in Winchester

  • ITV News Meridian's Harry Acton reports from Winchester

The MP for Winchester and Chandler's Ford has told ITV News Meridian he is absolutely furious with Southern Water.

Steve Brine's comments follow almost a week of disruption to water supplies in Winchester, due to a technical issue at a treatment works in Easton.

Thousands of homes across the city were left without water at the weekend, while the company worked to make repairs.

Southern Water managed to get the majority of homes back in supply by Monday, but people from all areas continued to report low pressure and intermittent supplies.

On Thursday, Mr Brine told ITV News Meridian: "I'm absolutely furious on behalf of my constituents, and Southern Water are well aware of that, who for the best part of a week have either had no supply or intermittent supply. I've had schools, pre-schools, businesses not knowing whether they can open.

"People haven't been heating in these temperatures because of it and I've got one of the bigger secondary schools in the county, King's School, closed because they had to make a decision yesterday when they didn't have any water."

  • Steve Brine MP speaks to ITV News Meridian at a bottled water station in Winchester

The worst affected areas included Kings Worthy, Fulflood and Upper Winchester, with Southern Water making use of 27 tankers to keep people connected to the network.

However its efforts were hampered after a water pump near Romsey Road failed, leaving homes and schools out of supply on Wednesday (17 January).

Throughout the week Southern Water acknowledged that 400 homes were affected by intermittent supply and low pressure.

These included properties on Clifton Road, Elm Road, Fordington Road, Newburgh Street, Western Road, Cross Street, High Street, Staple Gardens, Tower Street, Sarum Road, Sussex Street, Upper High Street, St Pauls Hill, Hatherley Road, Stockbridge Road and Avenue Road.

Bottled water sites were set up across the city for those without water. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Mr Brine acknowledged that Southern Water worked hard to resolve the issue, but told ITV that their communication let locals down.

He said: "Many people have said that what they got from my Facebook page was better than what they got from Southern Water so we're furious.

"Now the supply is back and by large it is. The focus for me now turns to the investigation and there has to be a formal investigation which reports to me and the Minister. I want that done in very short order to see what happened.

"Southern Water have been very good at communicating with me. They know how annoyed I am at them and I've told them every time we've spoken.

"They texted me very late last night about the water supply coming back on at King's - too late. It's communication with customers that matters.

"The reason why Easton Water was shut down is perfectly legitimate, it was safety and they have to put customers' safety first.

"Communication with MPs is one thing but communication with customers is what matters most and I don't think, again, it's been good enough."

  • Steve Brine told ITV News Meridian he was in regular contact with Southern Water

In a statement Southern Water apologised for the stress and disruption caused to Winchester residents in the past week.

A spokesperson said: "We’re very sorry for the distress and disruption this has caused our customers over the past week.

"On Friday (January 12) key equipment failed at Easton Water Supply Works following a gas leak. This affected the disinfection procedures which is a crucial part of how we treat water before supplying it to customers.

"We shut down the site immediately, preventing water entering the network. Our number one focus then was finding other ways to keep customers in supply.

"This was a difficult challenge as our local reservoirs were under severe pressure.

"To keep up with demand our staff worked around-the-clock using 27 tankers to inject water into the network.

"Our engineers were also able to move water around the local network in Winchester through what we call a rezone.

"These reservoirs and Easton Water Supply Works supply 17,000 properties across Winchester but our response helped reduce the impact at its peak to 3,000 properties. These customers were without water for three hours.

"On 17 January, we encountered a further issue with a water pump near Romsey Road, which impacted homes in west Winchester along with Kings School. This was resolved in four hours but we know this again caused significant disruption.

"Normal supply was restored on 18 January, and we’d like to once again apologise for the distress and inconvenience this has caused many households.

"We know how disruptive any loss of supply or period of low pressure is and we will be reviewing this incident and looking at any areas where lessons can be learnt and improvements can be made."

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