Sewage shame revealed as UK pours raw muck into sea for millions of hours each year
By Nada Farhoud Environment editor
This beach in Southwick, West Sussex, is one of hundreds affected by sewage discharges in the last month alone.
Southern Water pumped raw sewage out of more than half its outlets around the South East coast – from the Isle of Wight to Kent – earlier this month.
In places, the discharges continued for more than 40 hours.
Last year, water companies around the country allowed more than 400,000 sewage discharges into streams, rivers and the sea, lasting three million hours.
That was compared to 293,000 hours of discharges in 2019.
Sewage is dumped into the sea along great stretches of coastline ( Image: Daily Mirror)
Yet last week the Tories weakened an amendment to the Environment Bill that sought to place a legal duty on the water companies not to discharge sewage into our waterways.
They would have also had to “demonstrate improvements in the sewerage systems”, forcing the privatised companies to invest some of their vast profits in the network.
Just 22 Tory rebels voted against weakening Amendment 45.
It triggered a backlash, with #Sewage trending on Twitter, and MPs shamed for voting down the measures.
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker posted: “Controversial I know, especially given my history of defecating in public, but I’m not an enormous fan of pumping raw sewage into our seas and rivers.”
Southwick beach in East Sussex is filled with muck ( Image: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)
Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden posted: “I’m pleased to see the sheer volume of concern for our precious waters. Govt take heed.
“You can’t word away sewage being dumped in our rivers and oceans.”
The bill goes back to the Lords today, and peers are expected to send it back to the Commons for a reading tomorrow.
Ms Meaden said last night: “It is hard to understand that instead of tackling the root cause, the dumping of raw sewerage in storm or overflow conditions into our waterways will be enshrined in law unless MPs have a change of heart at the reading on Wednesday.”
The amendment was brought by the Duke of Wellington, who will today bring forward a reworded version to force firms to improve sewage systems “as soon as reasonable”.
The new amendment is expected to pass tonight and be sent back for a final showdown in the Commons, where Boris Johnson could suffer a Tory revolt if he fails to compromise.
Britain’s combined sewer system, dating back to the Victorian era, collects rainwater and waste in the same pipes, meaning it overflows in times of heavy rain.
Under a 2012 European court ruling, water firms can release rainwater and untreated sewage into waterways in “exceptional” circumstances to stop waste backing up in streets and homes. But environmentalists say better infrastructure, such as storage tanks, could prevent this.
Campaigners warn Lake Windermere could become “ecologically dead” because of sewage.
A plant in Ambleside let raw sewage flow into the lake for 1,719 hours in 2020.
Paul de Zylva, from Friends of the Earth, said: “Pumping sewage into our rivers and seas by water companies has become a regular cause of pollution. What is meant to be an exceptional act is routine.”
Hugo Tagholm, of Surfers Against Sewage said: “Our coastlines are struggling.” The Rivers Trust warns that 86% of England’s rivers are in “failing health”. Just one stretch of English river, the Wharfe at Ilkley, Yorkshire, has bathing water status, compared to 420 in France.
“In England, just 14% of rivers have good ecological status and none have good chemical status.”https://get-latest.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mirror.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fuk-news%2Fsewage-shames-revealed-uk-pours-25298442&cre=bottom&cip=30&view=web
Mark Lloyd, CEO, of the River Trust said: “Hearing news of sewage discharges, even into popular bathing and amenity sites, is now routine.”
A Defra spokeswoman said: “We have made it clear to water companies they must significantly reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows as a priority.
“To this end we have added a range of new legally binding obligations directly on water companies in the Environment Bill.”
Three months ago, Southern Water was fined £90million after admitting 51 charges of releasing raw sewage.
Asked about its latest coastal discharges, a Southern Water spokeswoman said: “As a service to recreational water users we provide a near real-time Beachbuoy service which alerts them to when storm water has filled storm tanks and – after screening – is being released.”
News Credit: www.mirror.co.uk