Untreated dilute sewage continues to be released into UK seas and rivers on a daily basis. Monitoring installed by water companies over the last few years has only confirmed what we knew for decades – that many sewer overflows operate too often, and that things are only getting worse, not better. You’d think in this modern age, with everyone being aware of climate change impacts, big water companies would have more efficient systems in place. And have the willingness to put green practices above profits. You’d also think that MPs would be able to vote and force said companies to make a change. Alas, it seems not.
The recent vote by parliament saw many ministers and conservative politicians vote against a bill to get water companies to stop discharging untreated sewage into our rivers – much to the outrage and disgust of many. But it is a very complex subject, and the government has listened to advice from water companies that it could cost up to £150bn to fully stop all discharges from combined sewer overflows. But that is a very black and white position, and as the Rivers Trust prove, the Lords amendment can be achieved in more environmentally and financially sustainable ways.
Partly because of the public outcry, partly because of the Rivers Trust lobbying, and partly because a late application of reason and common sense by the government, there are improvements being made to the Environment Bill to strengthen it, and bring it closer to the improvements required by the Lords amendment. Whether it’s enough remains to be seen.
There have been a few stories in the media concerning the discharge of sewage into our seas. The following BBC News article shows drone footage of sewage being released into a harbour at one of the key sites suffering currently.
This is even with the water company concerned (Southern Water) getting a record breaking 90 million fine for illegally chucking untreated sewage into the sea.
Much of the anger has been directed at the privatised water companies failing to provide the public service we all expect. In fairness to the water companies, when their customers are asked directly about whether they want to pay more for their water bills to improve water quality, the answer is nearly always no. And the government regulator OFWAT has been pressuring water companies for the last 10 years to reduce customers bills not increase them. So where would the money come from?
This interesting article provides evidence that companies have been loading themselves with debt to pay big dividends to their shareholders, so maybe that’s part of the answer!
What can we do about sewage being dumped into rivers and seas?
We can all do our bit to protest and get a stop put this practice. Even if only on a small scale every little helps. We know a good many who’ve taken it on themselves to question and continually probe officials over these matters. Others have taken things even further and are getting water samples logged and broadcasting the science behind these findings to the public. You can find many of these pressure groups on Facebook if you search.
Recently Surfers Against Sewage have ramped up their pressure and have a tool on their site whereby an automated email can be sent from you to your local parliamentary representative. It takes two minutes to do so is pretty easy. The link to that’s below.
Joining surfers against sewage or the Rivers Trust all helps as well!
Bournemouth anti-sewage dumping paddle out.
Last weekend saw a bunch of Bournemouth surfers and water enthusiasts stage a paddle out protest saying no to sewage dumping in seas. Organised by Sorted Surf Shop and a bunch of locals this is another way to raise awareness about the probelm. It received a decent wedge of media coverage which further pressurises authorities.
You could do your own paddle out or SUP protest. If you do then let us know as we’ll help promote and broadcast this via McConks channels.
Ultimately the practice of discharging untreated sewage into our rivers and oceans needs to stop. There are countless who rely on these natural resources for livelihood and recreational purposes. And then there’s the long term damage this causes to the environment. It’s not on that water companies should continue to get away with these practices and profit in the process. Let’s do something about it!
Header pic: @cakejaggaley