For five months the inhabitants of the picturesque villages of Chilbolton, Appleshaw and St Mary Bourne in Hampshire’s Upper Test Valley have endured raw sewage being pumped across fields, through ditches and into the river after the wettest winter in more than 100 years left groundwater levels higher than ever before. The situation for residents is that the Environment Agency, Southern Water, the local authorities and landowners are all involved in emergency measures, but no one is actually responsible for a clear up.

Hampshire County Council has confirmed that residents are deeply unhappy with the situation, caused by the inability of land drains in the area to deal with extra large volumes of rainwater which has left Southern Water’s sewage system unable to cope, with ground water infiltrating the pipes and effluent being deposited on roads and gardens. On some days residents have even found their showers and toilets fouled. In Appleshaw, the EA has given Southern Water permission to pump sewage into an open ditch which then floods the main road which has had to close. The noise of the lorries from tankers is also an annoyance to visitors.

“The ground water levels are now going down,” the EA’s Area Flood Defence Manager for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Tim Kermode, told edie. However, although Kermode said that levels would go down over the summer ground water levels were “likely to be high again this autumn”. Investigation into prevention of a repeat scenario was underway, but no firm measures had been arrived at yet, he said. Kermode said that emergency measures had been required as the area had had 10% more rainfall than the previous highest record levels and that just in the part of Hampshire his EA department dealt with 98 villages suffered from ground water flooding.

The manager also agreed that local people were confused by not knowing who deal with what in such a situation. No entity has a responsibility to work on small or large water courses to prevent flooding, nor even on landowners to improve drainage systems, merely to maintain them, something which a Hampshire County Council spokesperson told edie had not happened. “We have carried out our responsibility to keep ditches and drains clear, which landowners also share. It’s clear, however, that not all of them have done so,” she said.

Southern Water said it had “every sympathy with the residents” and that, despite “carrying out emergency tankering operations to relieve the sewers. Much of the resulting floodwater, with nowhere else to go, is still forcing its way, in considerable volumes, into the sewers”, which “cannot, and are not, built to take this huge volume of water”.

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