Raw sewage in our rivers: holding water companies and the government to account

The South West, like many parts of the country, “has long suffered from an excessive and unacceptable use of storm overflows… The amount of sewage discharge by water companies into our rivers is unacceptable.”

The volume of raw sewage being dumped into rivers will remain hidden after the government rejected a recommendation by MPs that water companies should be required to measure it.

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Last year, the government promised to clean up our rivers:

The environment minister, Rebecca Pow, has promised to bring in legislation to reduce discharge of raw sewage into rivers. Pow said that she would be placing a legal duty on government to come up with a plan to cut dumping by water companies by September 2022.

Environment minister pledges laws to cut dumping of sewage in English rivers | Pollution | The Guardian

Today, it issued further pledges:

The Government has reinforced its commitment to improving water quality including through plans for water companies to eliminate harm from sewage discharges.

Delivering the water quality we all want to see – GOV.UK

And in today’s WMN, the minister backed this up:

ENVIRONMENT Minister Rebecca Pow has vowed to get tough on the pollution of our rivers and coastal waters and ensure water companies clean up their act when it comes to sewage discharges.

Writing in today’s WMN, Ms Pow said water quality was a top priority for the Government, which was “cracking down on those water companies that are not playing their part in delivering the clean water that the people of this country want to see”.

She argued the South West, like many parts of the country, “has long suffered from an excessive and unacceptable use of storm overflows”, and added: “I have said time and again that the amount of sewage discharge by water companies into our rivers is unacceptable. They need to raise their game and those that do not meet expectations will be held to account.”

Western Morning News –

However, a piece in today’s Times suggests otherwise:

Raw sewage in rivers to go unchecked

The volume of raw sewage being dumped into rivers will remain hidden after the government rejected a recommendation by MPs that water companies should be required to measure it. The companies must gauge the frequency and length of spills but their “event duration monitors” do not measure the sewage poured into waterways. Water quality campaigners say volume monitors are essential to reveal the true impact of spills.

The environmental audit committee recommended in a report in January that water companies should be required to install volume monitors to assess discharges. The government response, published today, rejects the recommendation and repeats arguments put forward by water companies that monitoring was difficult and expensive.

Ash Smith, of Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP), accused the government of allowing water companies to conceal the extent of discharges. “Volume monitoring would show the truth about the extent and increase in criminal pollution and underinvestment,” he said. “But the introduction of volume monitors, which exist in every house with a water meter, is determined to be too difficult and too expensive.” Professor Peter Hammond, a WASP campaigner who helped expose illegal spills by water companies, said the industry feared volume monitors could result in fines. His research helped prompt the Environment Agency and Ofwat to launch an inquiry last November into suspected illegal spills by the ten water companies...

Raw sewage in rivers to go unchecked | News | The Times

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