A NEW petition calling on Southern Water to stop disposing waste in the River Test in villages near Stockbridge and Longparish is quickly gaining support.

As previously reported, 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).

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

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

READ MORE: Villagers protest plan to pump 'millions of litres' of wastewater into River Test

A petition created on Change.org to stop Southern Water from pumping wastewater to the river has so far received more than 500 signatures in a matter of hours.

Petition starter C Gray wrote: “The River Test runs through the beautiful village of Chilbolton and is part of the SSSI (Site of Specific Scientific Interest). The river is more than just a body of water; it's a thriving ecosystem that supports an array of wildlife including trout, Atlantic salmon, voles, owls and otters. However, this vibrant habitat is under threat due to Southern Water's practices.

“Due to high water levels, Southern Water is now pumping waste into the river at Chilbolton. This not only disrupts the natural balance but also poses serious threats to the diverse species that call this river home. The impact on local biodiversity could be devastating if these practices continue unchecked.”

Singer Feargal Sharkey, best known for his1985 solo single A Good Heart, has also posted on X (formerly Twitter) against Southern Water’s plan to pump wastewater into the River Test.

Described by Sir David Attenborough as “one of the rarest habitats on Earth” in his recent BBC series Wild Isles, chalk streams like the River Test are under serious threat.

The petition link is change.org/river-test.

The residents have questioned whether Natural England sanctioned this wastewater disposal move.

Southern Water could not confirm this.

However, the water company 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.

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“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.”

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.