Urgent work is continuing, led by the Environment Agency, to investigate a drop in water quality off Southsea beach and improve the situation ahead of this year’s bathing season.

It comes after the Environment Agency (EA), which is responsible for water quality, confirmed Southsea East would be downgraded from ‘sufficient’ to ‘poor’. Southsea East is the area between South Parade Pier and the Pyramids Centre.

Signs will be put up advising people not to bathe in this area of the beach.

The EA is being supported by partner organisations including Southern Water (SW), Portsmouth City Council and the coastal defence scheme to identify and fix the causes of the issue.

At a meeting on Tuesday (9 January), the Council’s Cabinet members reiterated their concerns and heard how the council is supporting the EA’s monitoring with five additional sampling points, including in both Langstone and Portsmouth harbours.

Leader cllr Steve Pitt said:

“We are extremely concerned, as Portsmouth residents will be, about the water quality at Southsea and the impact on the marine environment. People should have confidence in the water they swim in, and the council is working hard to support the Environment Agency in every way possible to find and fix the problem.”

The meeting heard about the partnership work taking place to identify and resolve the sources of contamination.

The foul connection from south to the Southern Low was found to be partially blocked and has now been now cleared, and fractures on the line repaired.

Some private drains found to be blocked have also been cleared, and those responsible for private pipework and connections with issues have been notified and work undertaken. Sewer connections to local businesses have also been checked.

Other potential causes, including the sewer in Alhambra Road, have been investigated and discounted. The issue is not due to the sea defence work currently taking place, the old pumping station nearby, or linked to seagull waste, as had been speculated, councillors were told.

The meeting heard that though there are no overflows in the immediate area, Southern Water is mapping how sewage releases elsewhere might impact Southsea beaches.

Following the meeting, Southern Water has claimed that it has found the leak and fixed it, but only time will tell if they are correct and Portsmouth City Council will continue its additional testing regime to see what the results show.

The EA will continue to lead testing and survey work to identify the source of contamination and an updated report will be brought to Cabinet to discuss ahead of the bathing season.

Cllr Pitt added:

“We will continue to provide the EA with all the assistance we can to improve our rating as quickly as possible. We’ll fulfil our role of ensuring people are kept fully informed about quality of our bathing waters with information online and with signs along the beach.

“I want to make clear that this issue affects only this one section of our beautiful beaches which people can continue to enjoy.”

Water quality to the east of South Parade Pier remains ‘good’ according to the Environment Agency.