By Henri Brocklebank
Director of Conservation Policy
Southern Water’s recently announced fine from OFWAT is a news story that impacts most people in Sussex, who will be benefiting from a £61 reduction in their waste water costs.
As a conservationist I never imagined that I would get so involved in sewerage related issues but the impact link with our wildlife is critical.
In Sussex we have areas protected for wildlife of local, national and international significance. Many of these are remnants of our much degraded wetland landscapes, islands of rich and unique biodiversity in our highly modified floodplains. The quality of these sites is dependent on clean water. The phosphates and other contaminants that come from waste water are a death sentence for wildlife, let alone a risk to human health. And of course it all ends up in one global dumping ground - the sea. Algal blooms and dead zones off our coasts are a serious threat caused by eutrophication (too many nutrients in the water).
Sussex Wildlife Trust works closely with Southern Water. They are an important partner in the restoration of our wetland landscapes and we have been impressed with their recent commitment to the environment. The 'catchment first' and 'target 100' initiatives are of great interest to us and their ongoing contribution at a community level through each Sussex catchment partnership event is valued.
Southern Water will have a significant journey to regain customer and stakeholder confidence. We know that the leadership team at Southern Water has had big changes since the breaches were identified, and we know that they will be doing everything possible to demonstrate a transformation of attitudes and systems.
Whilst a penalty that impacts the company is inevitable and appropriate for a breach of regulations, trust and ethics, our hope at Sussex Wildlife Trust is that hard fought-for company investment in the natural environment is not reduced as a result of this fine, when it is the natural environment that has already borne the brunt of the problem.