A NATIONAL environmental charity has accused Southern Water of treating the New Forest National Park "like an open sewer".

River Action has spoken out after obtaining figures which reveal that raw sewage has been discharged into the area's two main rivers on hundreds of occasions.

The data has been published by the Environment Agency following a freedom of information request by the charity.

Last year sewage entered the Lymington and Beaulieu rivers more than 250 times during discharges that lasted for a total of almost 1,900 hours.

Daily Echo: Sewage in the Beaulieu River. Picture: River Action.Sewage in the Beaulieu River. Picture: River Action.

The figures also show that reported discharges by sewage treatment plants and sewer overflows have occurred on more than 900 occasions over the past three years.

Souther Water insists it is investing "record amounts" to protect the environment.

Earlier this year the New Forest was named the best national park in Europe in the Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards for 2022.

The figures obtained by River Action show the most frequent discharges have occurred at Brockenhurst Wastewater Treatment Works on the Lymington River and Lyndhurst Wastewater Treatment Works on the Beaulieu River.

It comes as the national park prepares for its annual influx of summer holidaymakers.

Daily Echo: The Beaulieu River.The Beaulieu River.

Charles Watson, River Action's founder and chairman, said: “As tens of thousands of visitors prepare to enjoy the wonders of the New Forest, it seems inconceivable that Europe’s favourite national park is being treated like an open sewer by Southern Water.

“We urge Southern Water to disclose immediately what measures it plans to take to end this abuse."

Professor Russell Wynn, director of local wildlife group Wild New Forest, added: "The rivers and streams of the New Forest should be some of the cleanest in the country.

"But they're regularly being flushed with a noxious mix of pollutants expelled from wastewater treatment works.

“Inadequate monitoring of fauna and flora means we simply don’t know what impact these regular discharges are having on protected habitats and species."

Daily Echo: The Lymington River. Picture: Daily Echo Camera Club member Steve Elson.The Lymington River. Picture: Daily Echo Camera Club member Steve Elson.

A Southern Water spokesman said: "Lawrence Gosden, Southern Water's CEO, will be delighted to meet with this important new charity.

"We are one of the key stewards of river water quality and are investing record amounts to protect and enhance the environment.

"Our Storm Overflow Task Force is leading the industry in our pioneering approach to reducing releases during heavy rain.

“Nature-based solutions and working with partners including NGOs (non-governmental organisations), landowners, councils and businesses is the key to reducing the amount of water getting into our system and slowing the flow so our systems can cope.”

Cllr David Harrison is a member of the New Forest National Park Authority.

He said: "How an earth can you justify repeatedly allowing sewage to get into our rivers? There needs to be an urgent response, especially when it comes to protecting our national parks.

"Unfortunately, my confidence in Southern Water is less than zero."

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this article - we appreciate your support in reading the Daily Echo.

Subscribing to the Echo means you have unrestricted access to the latest news, features and Saints coverage - all with an advertising-light website.

You will also have full access to Saintsplus, your new home for Southampton FC tactical analysis, features and much, much more.

Don't take my word for it - subscribe here to see for yourself.

Follow the latest breaking news in the Southampton area by joining our Facebook group - Southampton News - Breaking News and Incidents

Follow the latest court and crime news on our dedicated Facebook group - Hampshire Court and Crime News