2012 project to reduce pollution in Old Roar Gill Hastings and its catchment area

Chris Hurrell made this Environmental Information Regulations request to Southern Water Services Limited
You only have a right in law to access information about the environment from this authority
Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Southern Water Services Limited,

2012 project to reduce pollution in Old Roar Gill and its catchment area

Part of Southern Water’s AMP5 business plan was the implementation of measures in 2012 to prevent pollution in Old Roar Gill and its catchment area. A Southern Water foul/combined sewer runs through and parallel with Old Roar Gill. Flooding caused by hydraulic incapacity had been reported from this sewer, historically resulting in pollution to the watercourse.

Measures included surface water separation to resolve hydraulic overload and create new capacity within the network. Separating surface water runoff from residential estates and highways from the combined sewer system and discharging surface water flows to an existing surface water outfall into Old Roar Gill.

The project included the construction of a new surface water sewer to convey the newly separated flows to an existing surface water outfall to Old Roar Gill east of Copper Beeches. Fundamentally, it reduces sewer hydraulic overloading by diverting existing surface water flows draining to the combined sewer to a new surface water sewer.

Further details of the project can be found in the article http://ftp2.ciwem.org/2013/2013%2024_%20...

There have been sewage leaks into the Gill this year. These leaks have caused harm to wildlife and the environment.

I request under EIR the following information:

1. All environmental and water quality reports done prior to the implementation of the 2012 project
2. All environmental and water quality reports done at the completion of the project
3. Maps of the surface water scheme implemented as described in the article “new surface water sewer of between 150 and 400mm diameter, which was laid through both ‘adopted’ and privately owned roads. “
4. The number of properties that were connected to the new surface water sewer.
5. The location of properties that were connected to the new surface water sewer.
6. Details of how many properties were modified as described in the article “lateral connections and drainage modifications were carried out, including alterations to downpipes of a number of private properties to capture the maximum amount of surface water from roofs and gullies”
8. Details of any surface water sewers that discharged surface water from properties in the Old Roar Gill catchment area prior to the 2012 project.
9. A copy of the fluvial flood risk assessment document referred to in the article “A fluvial flood risk assessment was carried out to demonstrate the effect of additional flows on the downstream Catchment.”
10. Copies of all documents (in any format including emails) concerning the 2012 project.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Hurrell

EIR - Environmental Information Regulations, Southern Water Services Limited

Dear Mr Hurrell

Thank you for your request. It will be dealt with under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

As required by the regulations, we aim to answer your request as soon as possible and within 20 working days from the date we received it. If for any reason we are unable to meet this deadline, we will keep you fully informed of the reasons for this.

Kind regards

EIR Officer

southernwater.co.uk

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EIR - Environmental Information Regulations, Southern Water Services Limited

Dear Mr Hurrell

Please know, we are continuing to deal with your EIR request.

As required by the legislation, we would normally aim to answer your request within 20 working days from the date we received it. On this occasion we require more time in order to provide a comprehensive response.

We will require between 20 and 40 working days to consider your request. This means that the deadline for our response will be 18th September 2023 and I will respond to your request by that date. I apologise for having not written to you earlier to request an extension.

Kind Regards

EIR Officer

southernwater.co.uk

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Dear EIR - Environmental Information Regulations,

I have now requestedthat the ICO investigate the delay in responding to this request:

"Dear Sir/Madam

Please see attached complaint concerning delays in receiving information from Southern Water under EIR.
Information concerning 2012 Project was requested on the 21st July 2023.
The request was made over 20 working days ago and Southern Water have yet to respond with information

Southern Water often fails to respond to information requests within 20 working days. It appears that after 20 days they routinely extend the time to 40 days.

I request that the ICO investigates this and requests that Southern Water respond to the information request without further delay.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Hurrell"

EIR - Environmental Information Regulations, Southern Water Services Limited

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Hurrell

In response to your request, please see the attached letter.

Kind regards

EIR Officer

southernwater.co.uk

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Dear Southern Water Services Limited,

I am writing to request an internal review of Southern Water Services Limited's handling of my EIR request '2012 project to reduce pollution in Old Roar Gill Hastings and its catchment area'.

Your response to questions 1,2 and 9
-------------------------------------------------
"1. All environmental and water quality reports prior to the implementation of the 2012 project
2. All environmental and water quality reports done at the completion of the project
9. Copies of all documents (in any format including emails) concerning the 2012 project."

You have stated that the information is not held.
Despite this you then speculate that IF the information was held it would be refused under 12(4)(e) internal communications.
This unnecessary speculation suggests that SW has a predetermined position to refuse the release of ALL information concerning water quality test reports. Previous requests for held water quality test data have been blanket refused under "course of investigation" regardless of their age. Are there any circumstances when SW would release such information?

Your response to question 3
-------------------------------------
"3. Maps of the surface water scheme implemented as described in the article “new surface
water sewer of between 150 and 400mm diameter, which was laid through both ‘adopted’
and privately owned roads."

You refer me to an external website. This website charges for information.
Under EIR there are thresholds for payment. You have not justified or explained why charges are necessary.
Please release the requested maps.

Your response to question 7
--------------------------------------
"7. Details of any surface water sewers that discharged surface water from properties in the Old
Roar Gill catchment area prior to the 2012 project. "

You have refused under regulation 13 personal data.
You have not explained how details of surface water sewers that discharge into old Roar Gill is personal data. It is not.
Please provide the information.

You refer me to a fee paying website for maps.This website charges for information.
Under EIR there are thresholds for payment. You have not justified or explained why charges are necessary.
Please release the requested maps.

A full history of my EIR request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

Yours faithfully,

Chris Hurrell

Churchill, Robin, Southern Water Services Limited

2 Attachments

 

Dear Mr Hurrell

 

RE REQUEST FOR AN INTERNAL REVIEW

 

I write further to your email of 25 October 2023 timed at 09:49 below.

 

I am the Head of Legal Services at Southern Water and I deal with requests
for Internal Reviews of requests made pursuant to the Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 (EIR 2004).  I note you have made a request
for an Internal Review of the decisions made by Southern Water dated 13
September and 21 September 2023 following your request made under the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004 received on 21 July 2023. The
responses from Southern Water are attached. 

 

BACKGROUND

In your original request you asked for disclosure of the following in
respect of the 2012 project to reduce pollution in Old Roar Gill and its
catchment area:

1. All environmental and water quality reports done prior to the
implementation of the 2012 project

2. All environmental and water quality reports done at the completion of
the project

3. Maps of the surface water scheme implemented as described in the
article “new surface water sewer of between 150 and 400mm diameter, which
was laid through both ‘adopted’ and privately owned roads. “

4. The number of properties that were connected to the new surface water
sewer.

5. The location of properties that were connected to the new surface water
sewer.

6. Details of how many properties were modified as described in the
article “lateral connections and drainage modifications were carried out,
including alterations to downpipes of a number of private properties to
capture the maximum amount of surface water from roofs and gullies”

8. Details of any surface water sewers that discharged surface water from
properties in the Old Roar Gill catchment area prior to the 2012 project.

9. A copy of the fluvial flood risk assessment document referred to in the
article “A fluvial flood risk assessment was carried out to demonstrate
the effect of additional flows on the downstream Catchment.”

10. Copies of all documents (in any format including emails) concerning
the 2012 project.

 

Southern Water responded to your request as follows -

In response to question 4, Southern Water answered this in full and you
have not raised any issues.

In response to question 5, Southern Water answered this in full and you
have not raised any issues.

In response to question 6, Southern Water answered this in full and you
have not raised any issues. 

In response to question 10, Southern Water confirmed that it no longer
holds the information and you have not raised any issues. 

You have questioned the responses from Southern Water in relation to
questions numbered 1,2,3,7 (actually numbered 8 in your original request,
there being no request numbered 7 therein) and 9. My review has therefore
focussed on these questions.

 

THE INTERNAL REVIEW

As has been explained to you previously, it is a common misconception that
applicants for environmental information are entitled to receive all of
the information they ask for and the  EIR 2004 set out a number of
instances where it is entirely proper and legitimate to withhold
information  pursuant to those Regulations. I have explained below how
those exceptions apply to the requests you have made, which I hope you
will find helpful.

 

In response to Questions 1, 2 and 9, Southern Water explained that it does
not hold (no longer holds) the information you have requested.
Consequently it relied on exception 12(4)(e) under the EIR 2004 which I
set out below -

(4) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to
disclose information to the extent that—

(a) it does not hold that information when an applicant’s request is
received;

 

In your request for an Internal Review you do not challenge that Southern
Water does not hold the information requested, and you do not  challenge
the applicability of exception 12(4)(a).  Whilst you go on to seek a
discussion about the applicability of exception 12(4)(e) I do not fully
understand the reasons for that given that you do not challenge that
Southern Water does not hold the information requested, and you do not 
challenge the applicability of exception 12(4)(a). 

 

In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the original response from
Southern Water was correct and that it is not able to provide you with the
information you sought and therefore exception 12(4)(a) correctly applies.

 

In response to Question 3 Southern Water referred you to the website
location where public access to digitised sewer records is to be found.
Perhaps you are under the impression that Southern Water holds a bank of
maps (perhaps in paper or pdf format) that can be accessed and provided as
a discrete item upon request, however, that is not the case. Such mapping
information is held in digital data form and is accessed either by viewing
the data at a designated access terminal and/or by seeking a ‘snapshot’ of
the content by way of a request made via the weblink that has been
provided to you. Such protections are necessary to avoid unauthorised
revisions being made to the digitised data.

 

In Southern Water’s response to your question, you were provided with a
link to the website where public access to the digital mapping is to be
made, and you are aware that there is also public access to the digital
mapping via a terminal in the Southern Water Durrington Office which is
free of charge to use (your request for an Internal Review dated 25
October in EIR request number 2003). You have not stated that you are not
able to access the digital mapping in that way. 

 

In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the original response from
Southern Water was correct and that it is able to provide you with the
information you sought by providing access via the weblink and/or the
visitor terminal.  The amount charged to receive a ‘snapshot’ of the
digitised mapping system by way of a maps via the weblink are reasonable
and compliant with EIR 2004. 

 

In response to your Question 8 (subsequently titled question 7) ‘Details
of any surface water sewers that discharged surface water from properties
in the Old Roar Gill catchment area prior to the 2012 project (my
underlining)’, Southern Water explained that under EIR 2004 Southern Water
does not have to provide you with information if one of the exceptions in
the Regulations applies. In this case Southern Water considers that
Regulation 13 - the information requested includes personal data – in this
instance addresses of private/customer properties and details of their
potentially illegal connections - of which the applicant is not the data
subject applies, so will not be providing you with a copy of this
information.

 

Regulation 13 can apply if the information requested includes personal
data of which the applicant is not the data subject. You ask why
information regarding ‘surface water sewers’ generally is personal data,
however, what you actually sought was information regarding the (possible)
discharge of surface water from individual customers private premises and
that information would necessarily involve divulging personal data which
comprises their address and details of their surface water discharges,
some of which may be potentially illegal.

 

In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the original response from
Southern Water was correct and that it is not able to provide you with the
information you sought as EIR Regulation 13 correctly applies, in which
case the Regulations provide that Southern Water ‘shall not disclose the
personal data’.

 

 

CONCLUSION

I am satisfied that in response to Questions 1,2, and 9, that it does not
hold (no longer holds) the information you have requested and that
consequently it is entitled to rely upon exception 12(4)(a) under the EIR
2004.

 

In response to Question 3, I am satisfied that the original response from
Southern Water was correct and that it is able to provide you with the
information you sought by explaining how access can be provided to the
digital mapping system by providing access via the weblink and the visitor
terminal. 

 

In response to Question 8 (subsequently titled question 7), I am satisfied
that the original response from Southern Water was correct and that it is
not able to provide you with the information you sought as EIR Regulation
13 applies, in which case the Regulations provide that Southern Water
‘shall not disclose the personal data’

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office:

 

Information Commissioner's Office,

Wycliffe House, Water Lane,

Wilmslow, Cheshire

SK9 5AF

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Robin Churchill

Head of Legal

 

 

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Dear Churchill, Robin,

Thanks for your review response.

I have taken the remaining issues to the ICO. These include:

The statement that SW hold no information on the project.
The refusal to release maps - the insistence on charging for them without explaining how the cost threshold has been exceeded.
The refusal to release details of pre 2012 surface water drainage on the grounds that this is personal data.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Hurrell

Churchill, Robin, Southern Water Services Limited

Thank you for your email. 

I am away from the office on Annual Leave until Monday 4 December. If you
need urgent assistance, please contact [email address]

Otherwise, I will attend to your email asap upon my return. 

Thanks.

Robin

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