A WATER company is planning to pump large quantities of wastewater into the River Test.

Southern Water has set up a temporary pump to flush out water to the River Test at Chilbolton Cow Common, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Residents in the area have been informed that the pumping would start on Thursday, January 25.

Southern Water has also informed Longparish Parish Council that it plans to do the same in Longparish from next week.

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However, residents of both Chilbolton and Longparish have been rallying against this move, complaining that they have not been consulted.

A Chilbolton Cow Common resident, who didn’t want to be named, said Southern Water did a similar thing in 2014 when it pumped 2.6 million litres of sewage a day into the river in the area.

She said: “Southern Water’s documents show they discharge 10 to 30 litres a second. Based on simple calculations, this could result in between 864,000 and 2.6 million litres of effluent a day being discharged directly into a SSSI. You're looking at sewage to the size of an Olympic-sized swimming pool being pumped into the river a day.

“This week they have come and put down filtration systems on to the Common. They closed the access to the village through the bridge. It’s a big, big issue.

“This poses serious questions about ecology and health. None of the residents have been consulted. We are unclear who has and has not been consulted. Have Natural England sanctioned this pumping of effluent onto a SSSI?”

A Longparish resident said the part of River Test running through the village has a diverse and spectacular wildlife including trout, Atlantic salmon, voles, owns and otters to name a few.

They said: “So it seems that controlled pollution is what they're planning, something that Southern Water appear to have been in trouble for before. They are planning on polluting the River Test with only partially treated sewage, removing solid mass, but leaving the remainder to break down once dumped which will contain many contaminants. “

However, Southern Water has explained that its network in Chilbolton is under severe pressure due to high levels of groundwater infiltrating its way into sewers and private pipes, and it has to remove excess flows to prevent the area from flooding.

A Southern Water spokesperson said: “Our network in Chilbolton is under severe pressure due to high levels of groundwater infiltrating its way into private pipes and Southern Water sewers. 

“To prevent customers’ homes, businesses and other community buildings from flooding, we have set up a temporary overland pump to remove excess flows from the area. This action follows the long-standing use of tankers in the village, which residents fed back were disruptive. 

“These flows are almost entirely made up of groundwater, with only a very small amount of wastewater, and they are treated before being released into the environment. We will be monitoring the environmental impact of this very closely to ensure there is no signifigant impact to the watercourse.

“We are working hard to find a more permanent solution to the groundwater problem facing Chilbolton and will update residents on progress as soon as we can.”

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The spokesperson did not confirm how long the pumping would go on, and what would be the quantity of water pumped to the river.

The company said it has been engaging with the local authority and environment agency about this activity. A decision to then inform Natural England was taken in coordination with the environment agency, the spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson could not confirm whether Southern Water got a sanction from Natural England to start the work.