A HAMPSHIRE river was hammered by almost 500 hours of sewage dumping over the last year, new data has shown.

Figures released by the Environment Agency revealed Southern Water pumped 486 hours’ worth of raw sewage into the River Itchen in 2021-2022.

The water company also made an operating profit of £138m in the same period.

Unlike most rivers, the Itchen is one of just 210 chalk streams in the whole world, meaning it is home to a host of rare animals such as water voles, white-clawed crayfish, and otters.

Responding to the latest sewage data, Danny Chambers, the Lib Dem MP candidate for Winchester, said: "People around here are furious at how badly Southern Water treats the River Itchen. It is outrageous to think wildlife in our local rivers is being poisoned by disgusting raw sewage.

"Last year Southern Water made an operating profit of £138m yet regularly dumps raw sewage into our streams and onto our beaches. The whole thing stinks!”

Mr Chambers also criticised Winchester MP Steve Brine, a Conservative, who voted against changes which would have banned water companies polluting rivers with sewage.

The proposed Environment Bill would have placed legal duties on the companies to reduce discharges, but was defeated by 265 votes to 202.

Many argued the amendment did not include an impact assessment, and the costs incurred by immediately banning sewage spills would be too great.

Mr Brine, along with several MPs including Ben Everitt, Michael Fabricant, Anne Marie Morris and Sally-Ann Hart, released a lengthy ‘explainer’ in the wake of the vote, outlining a host of measures the government had already taken to tackle sewage dumping.

He also referenced the financial strain passing the bill would have placed on the taxpayer.

He said: “In eliminating storm overflows, we are talking about transforming a system which has operated since the Victorian Era, the preliminary cost of which is estimated to be anywhere between £150 billion and £650 billion.

“To put those figures in perspective, £150 billion is more than the entire schools, policing and defence budgets put together, and £650 billion is well above what has been spent combatting the Coronavirus pandemic.

“The government’s view was that it would have been irresponsible to have inserted this section in the bill given that it was not backed by a detailed plan and a thorough costed impact assessment. It would have been the equivalent of signing a blank check on behalf of billpayers.”