waterway mapping information - Old Roar Gill and Alexandra Park Catchment area - Hastings

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,

Following the ongoing pollution incidents in Old Roar Gill and the streams running through Alexandra Park which have caused environmental damage. I request the following under EIR.

For the catchment areas of Old Roar Gill and the Alexandra Park streams:

1. Maps of the drainage network showing foul water drains/sewers, surface water drains/sewers and any other water infrastructure.

2. Maps of the known misconnections (where properties have misconnected foul water to surface water drains)

3. Maps showing where there have been leaks/repairs/overflows/blockages in the foul sewers and surface water sewers.

4. An email dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb of Southern Water refers to a map of sampling locations taken during the ongoing pollution incident reported in May. Please provide maps of sampling locations during this incident.

5. Southern Water updates for the current incident refer to unmapped sewers discovered during the current incident. Please provide locations and connection details for these unmapped sewers.

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 12th 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,

Thanks for the update.

It is unreasonable to delay all of my request for 40 days.

The request refers to maps that SW must hold concerning itys sewage network and to a map referred to explicitly by Sue Cobb. The following information must be readily available:

1. Maps of the drainage network showing foul water drains/sewers, surface water drains/sewers and any other water infrastructure.

4. An email dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb of Southern Water refers to a map of sampling locations taken during the ongoing pollution incident reported in May. Please provide maps of sampling locations during this incident.

I recognise and accept that the other information may take longer to provide.

i am happy to receive the information requested in tranches as it becomes available.

Please explain why none of the information requested can be provided in the statutory 20 days.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Hurrell

Dear EIR - Environmental Information Regulations,

I have now requested that the ICO investigate the delays in responding to this request:

"Dear Sir/Madam

Please see attached complaint concerning delays in receiving information from Southern Water under EIR.
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.

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

Yours faithfully
Chris Hurrell"

20/08/2023"

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 and information.

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 'waterway mapping information - Old Roar Gill and Alexandra Park Catchment area - Hastings'.

The response far exceeded the 20 days allowed under EIR. No explanation or apology for the delay was given.

Your response to Question 1:
--------------------------------------
" Maps of the drainage network showing foul water drains/sewers, surface water drains/sewers and any other water infrastructure. "

You have misintepreted the question. I have requested maps for the catchment areas. I did not ask for maps or information concerning issues with sewers in this question. SW state they hold maps.

This is a blanket refusal under 12(5)(B). The use of 12(5)(B) is irrelevant to this question. Maps of the existing drainage sytatem have nothing to do with any ongoing enquiries under course of justice. SW are yet again using 12(5)(b) as a generic response to prevent the release of any information.

SW state that maps can be viewed at their Worthing offices. This conflicts with refusal under 12(5)(b) This is discriminatory against those who live far from Worthing and/or have accessibility issues.

The electronic versions of historic records require registration with an external company digdat and fees to be paid. This conflicts with your claim that “. In this case we have decided to waive our charge”.

Information requested under EIR are only chargeable once a threshold has been reached. No evidence has been provided that such a threshold has been reached. The charges are prohibitive and therefore conflict with ICO guidance.

Please supply the maps as requested electronically.

Your response to question 2
-----------------------------------
" Maps of the known misconnections (where properties have misconnected foul water to
surface water drains"

Information has been refused under 12(3) and 13 of the EIR .

I did not request addresses and postcodes. Just a map of known misconnections. SW have redacted road names. However the redacted road name does not identify an individual address and can’t be considered to be personal data. The name of the road does not provide any further information than the position of the symbols on the map that you have provided. Regulation 12(3) and 13 of the EIR do not apply and the street name should therefore not be redacted,.
Furthermore your recent 20/09/2023 update shows road names so how can road names be considered a breach of personal data? Or is the update a breach of the data protection act? https://www.southernwater.co.uk/the-news...

The map provided does not include a key to explain the red and blue symbols. The map provided is very low resolution and is unreadable when zoomed into. The supplied map is unusable.
Please provide the original high resolution version of the map which has a key and is usable.

Your response to question 3
------------------------------------
"3. Maps showing where there have been leaks/repairs/overflows/blockages in the foul sewers and surface water sewers. "

This is a blanket refusal under 12(5)(B). I have requested maps for the catchment areas. SW state they do not hold them.
The use of 12(5)(B) is irrelevant to this question. If there is other information held concerning historic incidents then please provide. Not all incidents can still be under investigation by the EA. Therefore 12(5)(b) cant apply to all incidents SW are yet again using 12(5)(b) as a generic response to prevent the release of any information.

Your response to questions 4 and 5
--------------------------------------------
"4. An email dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb of Southern Water refers to a map of sampling
locations taken during the ongoing pollution incident reported in May. Please provide maps
of sampling locations during this incident.
5. Southern Water updates for the current incident refer to unmapped sewers discovered during the current incident. Please provide locations and connection details for these
unmapped sewers. "

The threshold for engaging 12(5)(b) is high and has not been established . The ICO state that “the threshold for establishing adverse effect is high, since it is necessary to establish that disclosure would have an adverse effect.”
you have not identified any identifiable harms in releasing sampling locations nor have you established that disclosure WOULD have an adverse effect.
You have stated that release of sampling locations MAY influence the outcome of the EAs investigation and COULD prejudice the outcome of the EAs investigation T Furthermore “May” and “Could” do not meet the high threshold for establishing adverse effect as you must demonstrate that such a release WOULD have an adverse effect.

Public Interest test has not been explored
----------------------------------------------------------
You have failed to explore the public interest in the release of the test results. The pollution is in areas open to the public. There have been incidents of dead wildlife by the polluted streams. There is a real risk to public health and the welfare of dogs that walk these areas. Release of the test results is in the public interest and essential for public safety.

Each EIR request must be considered on its own merits
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Your response states "As previously advised to you, we have a dedicated page on our website that will provide updates regarding our investigation, this can be found at Water quality investigations in Alexandra Park, Hastings (southernwater.co.uk) "

Each EIR must be considered on its own merits. In any case the public website does not hold any of the information requested by this request

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

Yours faithfully,

Chris Hurrell

Churchill, Robin, Southern Water Services Limited

4 Attachments

Dear Mr Hurrell

 

RE REQUEST FOR AN INTERNAL REVIEW

 

I write further to your email of 25 October 2023 timed at 08:28 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 11
September 2023 following your request made under the Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 received on 17 July 2023. The response from
Southern Water is attached. 

 

BACKGROUND

In your original request you asked for disclosure of the following -

“Following the ongoing pollution incidents in Old Roar Gill and the
streams running through Alexandra Park which have caused environmental
damage. I request the following under EIR.

For the catchment areas of Old Roar Gill and the Alexandra Park streams:

1. Maps of the drainage network showing foul water drains/sewers, surface
water drains/sewers and any other water infrastructure.

2. Maps of the known misconnections (where properties have misconnected
foul water to surface water drains)

3. Maps showing where there have been leaks/repairs/overflows/blockages in
the foul sewers and surface water sewers.

4. An email dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb of Southern Water refers to a map of
sampling locations taken during the ongoing pollution incident reported in
May. Please provide maps of sampling locations during this incident.

5. Southern Water updates for the current incident refer to unmapped
sewers discovered during the current incident. Please provide locations
and connection details for these unmapped sewers.”

 

Southern Water responded to your request as follows –

“We can confirm that Southern Water does hold information of the type you
have requested as follows:

 

1. Maps of the drainage network showing foul water drains/sewers, surface
water drains/sewers and any other water infrastructure.

Historic records of our drainage network can be found through our website:
https://www.southernwater.co.uk/regulati...

 

2. Maps of the known misconnections (where properties have misconnected
foul water to surface water drains)

Please find attached a map showing all the misconnections found in the
Hastings area since 2019.

Please note, we have not provided addresses and postcodes due to data
protection considerations as per Regulations 12(3) and 13 of the EIR 2004.
Under the EIR 2004 Southern Water does not have to provide you with a copy
of this information if one of the exceptions in the legislation applies.
In this case Southern Water considers that Regulation 12(3) & 13 “the
information requested includes personal data of which the applicant is not
the data subject” applies, so will not be providing you with the address
and postcode data. Please note, this exception is not subject to the
‘public interest test’.

 

3. Maps showing where there have been leaks/repairs/overflows/blockages in
the foul sewers and surface water sewers.

Southern Water does not have a map showing where there have been problems
with the sewers in the Hastings area. In terms of other information held
about issues with the foul sewers and surface water sewers, we refer to
the exception under Regulation 12(5)(b) of the EIR 2004 – where the
disclosure would adversely affect the course of justice. In light of the
EA currently investigating the incident we will not disclose information
about issues with our sewers in the area as this may influence the outcome
of the EA’s investigation and could prejudice the ability of the EA to
conduct their enquiries and our ability to represent ourselves.

Southern Water is entitled to the protections afforded by due process and
natural justice, which should not be pre-empted by premature disclosure of
information to the public at large.

We have considered the public interest test and have concluded that it is
strongly in the public interest that these investigations and inquiries be
permitted to run their course fairly and dispassionately. We consider that
any public interest arguments in favour of disclosure are outweighed by
the arguments in favour of maintaining the exception as detailed above.

 

4. An email dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb of Southern Water refers to a map of
sampling locations taken during the ongoing pollution incident reported in
May. Please provide maps of sampling locations during this incident.

&

5. Southern Water updates for the current incident refer to unmapped
sewers discovered during the current incident. Please provide locations
and connection details for these unmapped sewers.

Regarding questions 4 & 5, we refer to the exception under Regulation
12(5)(b) of the EIR 2004 – where the disclosure would adversely affect the
course of the justice. The Environment Agency (EA) is currently
investigating the incident and in these circumstances, we will not
disclose the details about our sampling locations, or indeed any other
information arising out of our legally privileged investigation, as this
may influence the outcome of the EA’s investigation and could prejudice
the ability of the EA to conduct their enquiries and our ability to
represent ourselves.

Also, Southern Water is entitled to the protections afforded by due
process and natural justice, which should not be pre-empted by premature
disclosure of information to the public at large. We have considered the
public interest test and have concluded that it is strongly in the public
interest that these investigations and inquiries be permitted to run their
course fairly and dispassionately. We consider that any public interest
arguments in favour of disclosure are outweighed by the arguments in
favour of maintaining the exception as detailed above.

As previously advised to you, we have a dedicated page on our website that
will provide updates regarding our investigation, this can be found at
Water quality investigations in Alexandra Park, Hastings
(southernwater.co.uk).”

 

You have questioned the responses from Southern Water in relation to
questions numbered 1,2,3,4 & 5 as set out in your email below.

 

THE INTERNAL REVIEW

In response to Question 1, it is not clear from your email precisely what
issue or query you raise. Southern Water has referred you to the website
location where public access to digitised mapping 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. As has been
explained to you in relation to your request for an Internal Review dated
25 October 2023 (EIR 2021) that 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 Question 2, please find attached a map with clearer
resolution. You sought 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 waste water from individual customers private premises into
the surface water system, and that information would necessarily involve
divulging the addresses of those properties and the fact that they may
have a potentially illegal misconnection. This information would
necessarily consist of 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’.

 

In response to Question 3 (the request for maps showing where there have
been leaks/repairs/overflows/blockages in the foul sewers and surface
water sewers), Southern Water explained that it does not have such a map.
Although Southern Water then goes on to reference the exception under EIR
Regulation 12(5)(b), as you suggest, such a discussion is not relevant as
Southern Water states that it does not have such a map. As you do not
challenge Southern Waters statement in relation to the existence of a map,
but challenge the reference to EIR Regulation 12(5)(b), there isn’t
anything for me to review. 

 

In response to Question 4, “An email dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb of Southern
Water refers to a map of sampling locations taken during the ongoing
pollution incident reported in May. Please provide maps of sampling
locations during this incident.”,  I attach the map of sampling locations
(Buckshole Reservoir sample locations) that was referred to in the email
dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb.

 

In response to Question 5,  " Southern Water updates for the current
incident refer to unmapped sewers discovered during the current incident. 
Please provide locations and connection details for these unmapped
sewers." , further enquiries have been made and the information I have is
that the sewers have not yet been mapped. There were eleven such sewers
identified and the issues with them have been rectified. Please see the
picture below for where these unmapped sewers are in Ghyllside Drive,
Hastings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

I am satisfied that in response to Question 1, Southern Water has provided
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 Question 2, I have provided you with a clearer map.
Otherwise, 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’

 

In response to Question 3, there isn’t anything for me to review. 

 

In response to Question 4, I attach the maps of sampling locations that
was referred to in the email dated 24/05 from Sue Cobb.

 

In response to Question 5, details of the unmapped sewers has now been
provided.

 

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

 T. 01903 27 2500

M. 07341 735706

southernwater.co.uk

 

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