Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes yesterday (15th July) hosted a roundtable discussion for the lead organisations tackling the recent pollution incident in the River Test, which has impacted SSSI of the River Test and the Lower Test Nature Reserve. Attended by the Environment Agency, Natural England, Southern Water, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, The Wessex Rivers Trust County Councillor Nick Adams-King and Borough Councillors Terese Swain and Phil Bundy, the purpose was to discuss the current clean-up operation and what could be done to prevent future pollution incidents in the same area.
Those present discussed the pace of the clean-up, and what measures could be used to speed up the process.
Excavations have been made to create sumps to intercept fuel before it reaches the surface water sewer network. Tankers are working around the clock to skim any residual oil from the flow in the sewer downstream and a multiple layered series of booms, oil absorbent pads and vacuum skimmers have been set out on the outfall and in the immediate area of the watercourse beyond it. A temporary oil separation facility has been set up so that liquid removed can be treated on-site, removing the need for the Southern Water tankers to travel to specialist facilities and speeding up operations.
Southern Water has offered to undertake a review of surface drainage at the Nursling Estate, which is located in an extremely sensitive location, and has not only significant industrialised processes, but also run off from the motorway and the railway line. There is a complicated surface drainage picture, which needs to be properly understood before the impact of any potential changes can be understood.
Southern Water has also confirmed it will be lining a length of sewer pipe to further reduce the risk of fuel leaching into the sewer system from the surrounding ground. This work will begin as soon as possible.
Speaking after the event Caroline Nokes sai
“What is imperative is that there is a co-ordinated approach to the clean up, enforcement and the prevention of future incidents. I was very reassured that the Environment Agency and Natural England have a clear plan for investigation and enforcement. However I remain of the view that if action is successful and fines are levied there needs to be a mechanism for money recovered from polluters to be spent locally, to make good any environmental impact and introduce new schemes and improvements.
“There was a great deal of concern expressed by all participants about the risks posed to the SSSI from industrial uses and run off in sensitive locations, and it was very useful to have Cllr Nick Adams-King the Planning Portfolio holder at TVBC present. There was a recurring message about the need for all activities this close to the River to be effectively monitored for the pollution risk, and it was very clear to me that the EA needs to be properly funded to enable that to happen. There are a number of parliamentary opportunities coming up to enable me to raise that with Ministers and clearly this incident here on the Test could be replicated elsewhere, and we need to reduce the chances of that happening.”