Three P’s Please – Our visit to Southern Water November 2021

Sewage Treatment Plant

There has been a lot in the news and on Social Media recently about Raw Sewage discharges into our waters.  Members of Blue Seas Protection went along at the beginning of this month to find out. Chairman Garry Oates, Trustee Tiena Eccles and Social Media Coordinator Gina Phillips were invited to the sewage treatment plant in Sandown with FAECES, a group of concerned residents from East Cowes. 

The visit allowed us to learn how our wastewater is treated and attempt to understand the complexities of wastewater management. The size and intricacies of the site are incomprehensible but all the staff onsite were happy to talk us through every detail. 

We were glad to hear that all the team at Southern Water welcomed the proposal of the new Environmental Bill. This new bill will put increased pressure on water companies to take accountability for any environmental impact. They seem to be in constant talks about ways in which to improve their current methods and reduce their impact on the environment. However they were also keen to point out that the wastewater released into the sea makes up a very small amount of the sea pollution we face. With this as well they have assured us that there is no raw sewage being pumped into our waters on the Isle of Wight. 

They emphasised that only the “3 P’s” should be put down the toilet: Paper, Poo and Pee.  Invariably, instead we put wet wipes, cotton buds, sanitary items etc down our toilets as well, which put a strain on the system. 

They were also transparent about the dangerous things that end up in our oceans, even in treated sewage. There are still many steps to be taken to eliminate microplastics and pharmaceuticals from treated wastewater. Things don’t always go to plan but ultimately, they did assure us, there is no raw sewage being pumped out at Sandown Bay. We did learn however that rainwater is mixed and treated with wastewater which puts tremendous pressure on a system that is already at capacity.

These are the changes and pressures we need to potentially be putting on other agencies to ensure water companies like Southern Water can continue to do their job and not be forced to cut corners. There are many things we can do as individuals to help. So once again not flushing wipes, sanitary products or cotton buds down the toilet.  As well as this we can change the chemicals and products we flush down our toilets to ones that are biodegradable so they do not end up in our oceans. It is also important to be conscious of the amounts of water we use by using the Southern Water GetWaterFit app. 

We as a team at Blue Seas Protection realise that this problem is complex.  We believe that Southern Water should be investing much more heavily in the infrastructure instead of the focus being on profits.  Alongside that, the Planning department needs to be much tougher on new builds and their wastewater regulations. The Environmental Agency should make sure their standards are strict enough in ensuring that the discharge is safe. 

We as a Marine Conservation charity would be willing to offer our boat and our services at sea to help  with this on the Island and South Coast as part of our charitable work for public benefit. 

We would like to thank our colleagues at FAECES for the enlightening visit. We would also like to thank Laura and Andy for showing us around the treatment plant and answering our questions.