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Home / News / Harbour pollution research
Home / News / Harbour pollution research

Harbour pollution research

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Published 10:45 on 24 Nov 2021

You will no doubt be aware of the huge news topic of pollution in our rivers and harbours, and that Langstone made national news in recent weeks with drone footage showing the horrendous sight of untreated stormwater and sewage being discharged into the harbour. Southern Water admitted to discharging for c2,000 hours into both Langstone and Chichester Harbours up to the end of October.

Earlier this year a team of Water Quality Officers (WQOs), led by ESC and including Bosham SC, Itchenor SC, Langstone SC and ESSC, were tasked with finding out the facts about 'what's in our water'. The headline findings include:

  • that there are unusually high levels of nitrates, plastic microfibres and fibreglass in the water (Brighton University 2019)
  • that Southern Water was criminally convicted (earlier in 2021) for illegal dumping up to the end of 2015 (leaving an open question as to operations over the past 6yrs)
  • that Natural England's SSSI Review (2021) observed 40yrs of decline.

The WQOs also highlighted research suggesting that more than 30,000 chemicals are likely to get into sewage works, with many thousand 'forever' chemicals subsequently flowing into the harbour, plus compounds from highway run-off, landfill leeching, farming and water-user activity.

In summary, nobody yet completely understands what's in our harbour water or indeed its impact. Scientists rightly say that you only find what you test for and harbour testing is currently minor. The Chichester Harbour Conservancy only tests for 2 types of E.coli every few weeks and the Environment Agency focuses on nitrates.

The WQOs therefore highlight a large information gap around the extent and effect of other chemicals and have recommended to their respective clubs, joint sponsorship of a professional water testing research project.

ESC has been hugely supportive of this work and wishes to play its part going forward and will therefore be supporting a community-based scientific study being undertaken by Prof Alex Ford at Portsmouth University and Dr Thomas Miller at Brunel University. Both researchers are international leaders in their field and have designed an 'extent and effect' study which includes:

  • biopsies of five carefully selected species (to understand the chemicals entering the food-chain)
  • water testing for 200 chemicals
  • eDNA testing (to establish a biodiversity baseline for our harbours).

The project will be led on behalf of ESC by Club member Robert Bailey and we anticipate that there will be a presentation of results at the Club in the late spring of 2022.

This may well be the first of numerous research projects and ESC is pleased to be part of this important harbour collaboration.

Jane Mellor


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