Southern Water’s Operations in the Fyfield Water Catchment Area Brief for the Amport Parish Website (last updated 10 June 2021)

This third update describes plans, progress and issues since 21 May 21 when the last brief was posted. After a flurry of recent activity, there is some positive news to report. A description of the background to the challenges we face is at the back of this brief, for those that may not be familiar with them.

The Chairs of the seven parishes most affected by SW’s works[1] met a strong team from SW on 7 June; they heard of our concerns and we learned of their determination to resolve the long-standing issues associated with inundation and high ground water levels. Their engagement seemed to be genuine and they demonstrated they have mostly understood our concerns and are developing plans to address them. We discussed in reasonable detail their actions against the six commitments we sought from SW[2] (from capital investment, through over pumping, temporary works tankering, water quality, consultation and communications). An early snapshot of the discussion is as follows:

We hope that the agreed record of decisions will be published on the website by 18 June.

We agreed the next meeting of the Pan Parish Forum would be in September for SW to update on their plans and progress and we have a series of actions to work on before then. The revision to the Infiltration Reduction Plan – the agreed regulatory framework with the EA – should be at draft by then, for our review. We should hear more of their plans to line leaking pipes and perhaps of plans to work with private properties further to limit inundation of SW’s waste water system. We also expect SW will outline their communications and engagement plans.

We remain keen to strengthen our relationship with the EA. Kit Malthouse, our local MP, has sought their involvement too. The EA has a strong role to play in the broader challenge, including: local flood planning (TVBC lead); and the government’s initiative on the Storm Overflows Taskforce. We need to be mindful of how our work complements (or is complemented by) these wider initiatives.

Hampshire County Council still haven’t repaired the potholes, verges and street furniture on Wiremead Lane caused by SW’s works and on 9 June we reminded them of the threat to vehicles and road safety the damage to the highway represents and sought accelerated resolution.

Background

Through the last ground water season (Oct 20 – May 21), Southern Water (SW) has been conducting ‘emergency works’ which requires water tankers working across several locations in the area, perhaps most acute in East Cholderton on Wiremead Lane. This brief provides information relevant at the time of editing; we use the Monxton & Amport Villages Facebook site for more regular informal dialogue.

Amport Parish Council (APC) is working with all the agencies that have a part to play; local residents, SW, other Parish Councils affected by SW’s operations, Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC), the Environment Agency (EA) and Hampshire County Council (HCC).

Issues. SW’s scope raises four main issues for local residents:

– ‘Emergency works’[5] such as tankering away waste water, traffic control at the sites and ‘over pumping’ water into local streams/brooks, such as Pillhill Brook in East Cholderton.
– Water quality, through flood and drought and particularly when over pumping starts. The EA plays the key part here, agreeing standards with SW and (in this context) protecting the water quality along the length of the Brook that might be affected by SW’s work.
– Highway repairs, including collapse of the highway and verges and damage to street furniture. HCC has the main part to play in agreeing with SW the scope and standard of such works (road closures and reinstatement of the highway).
– Major Capital Investment. The longer-term resolution of the problem lies in SW agreeing major capital investment to resolve major sewage issues in the Pillhill water catchment area (affecting a number of villages in the local area).

Emergency Work. Heavy rain can cause the ingress of groundwater into SW’s sewers and flooding of rainwater and wastewater in a noxious mix. SW use tankers to take the excess of wastewater for treatment at their Fullerton Water Treatment site and more recently have deployed over pumping to release wastewater into the Brook.

Water Quality. Until early June, SW were over pumping treated water directly into Pillhill Brook, causing pollution to the water course, affecting a wide variety of the community – local residents immediately adjacent to the Mullenspond site, and people, flora and fauna downstream. When over pumping, SW placed health-warning signs at key points along the Brook and water testing to EA standards was in place. SW, the EA and TVBC’s environmental health experts reviewed the results each week. APC worked with the EA to understand the testing regime, the results and the implications of SW’s actions for our health and the environment. Ground water levels reduced sufficiently in late May 21 for infiltration into SW’s system to reduce to levels so that they could cope with without discharges into the Brook, and SW stopped over pumping and removed the health warning signs.

Highway Repairs. Once repairs to the highway have been completed, HCC must resolve the longer-term highway challenges on Wiremead Lane, where heavier and wider traffic (industrial and farm vehicles mainly) and flooding of the highway causes challenges that can only be resolved by significant work to upgrade the highway.

Major Capital Investment. It is clear that over pumping is not the solution to SW’s problems and tankers may again be required in conditions of flood or drought. We will continue to press SW, the EA, TVBC and HCC for a longer-term resolution to the Pillhill catchment area’s challenges and SW indicate that they have started to develop potential infrastructure solutions, particularly focused on repairs to their infrastructure from Kimpton to East Cholderton and elsewhere locally. We have made it clear to SW that we expect their wastewater infrastructure to be fit for purpose.

Tim Grimshaw
10 Jun 21


[1] The seven affected parishes: Amport, Monxton, Thruxton, Kimpton, Quarley, Abbots Ann, and Upper Clatford.

[2] The six commitments:

  1. Capital investment for wastewater infrastructure fit for current and evolving future wastewater needs;
  2. A commitment to stop over-pumping and – in extreme circumstances – only to over-pump when necessary to prevent loss of service to their customers or flooding;
  3. Assurances regarding the quality of the water in Pillhill Brook and transparency of the water test regime and results that demonstrate this;
  4. Compliance with the EA regulatory requirements, through their over pumping operations, during monitoring of water quality, and through their Infiltration Reduction Plan (IRP);
  5. Consultation with PCs before the execution of any further temporary works (such as tanker operations and highway restrictions);
  6. Engagement with their customers now and continued engagement and communications with them and with Parish and TVBC representatives through the execution of their future plans.

[3] Discharging treated sewage at their Mullens Pond pumping station on Wiremead Lane in East Cholderton, polluting Pillhill Brook.

[4] SW plan on reducing disruption on Wiremead Lane for example by making provision for water tankers to park off road (no traffic control), by running their equipment from mains electricity, using low level lighting and increasing the fencing height around the site to 6 feet.

[5] Even the term ‘emergency works’ is a misnomer, since such temporary works in flood and drought have been required for many years.