WE TOLD you so - that's the hard-hitting message to Southern Water from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, which says it's been highlighting the 'devastating impacts' of wastewater discharge for decades.

The trust, which has 24,000 members, was speaking after the news that the giant water firm, which deals with wastewater and sewage across Hampshire had misreported information about the performance of a number of sewage treatment sites.

Hampshire is home to some of the world's most important chalk streams, including the River Test, which is regarded as the home of fly fishing. Because Ofwat has not forced Southern Water to reveal where the sewage discharges occurred, it is not known if this river, and the others in the area, were affected.

Southern Water's failings included not making the necessary investment, which led to equipment failures and spills of wastewater.

Regulator Ofwat also found the company manipulated its wastewater sampling process and the company is now under criminal investigation by the Environment Agency.

In a statement, the wildlife trust said: "Waste water discharge can contain a toxic cocktail of domestic, industrial and agricultural pollution including hydrocarbons, heavy metals and chemicals like pesticides as well as the nutrients from sewage systems. These pollutants contribute significantly to declines in freshwater and marine species such as salmon and native crayfish and can have knock on impacts on humans through the shell fish that we eat for example."

Chief Executive at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Debbie Tann, said: “Our chalk streams and coastal waters are amongst the most important and precious habitats for wildlife and are under untenable pressure.

"For decades our rivers and seas have been polluted by wastewater discharges as well as run-off from the land. The wildlife trusts and other groups have long since highlighted the devastating impacts that these toxins can have on our wildlife and natural environment; decimating freshwater and marine species and jeopardising our vital natural resources. We have repeatedly called on water companies and other polluters to clean up their act."

She said water companies had a responsibility and a vested interest to protect and enhance the environment and create a healthy and sustainable resource for both people and wildlife.

Ms Tann said: “The wildlife trusts already work in partnership with Southern Water and other water companies to deliver practical improvements to our rivers and surrounding land and we hope today’s announcement will signal a real step change towards a better future for our natural environment.”