Movement to avoid Commons sewage rebellion dismissed as too weak | Rivers

A government attempt to stop a rebellion in parliament over the scale of sewage discharges by water companies into rivers has been criticized as being too weak.

Drinking water activists said a government amendment to the environmental bill did not create a legal obligation for water companies to stop discharging raw sewage into waterways.

The feud over the scale of sewage discharges to rivers and seas returns to the Commons on Monday when MPs will be asked to pass a government-written amendment to the environment bill in an attempt to prevent a rebellion.

In its amendment, the government states: “A remediation company whose area is wholly or mainly in England must ensure a gradual reduction in the negative impact of discharges from thunderstorm overflows from the funeral director … negative impacts on the environment and reducing negative impacts on public health. “

But campaigners say it weakens the current law and does not correspond to the so-called wastewater amendment passed by the Lords, which will also be considered by MPs on Monday.

This would place a legal obligation on sanitation service companies to take all reasonable steps to ensure that untreated wastewater is not discharged by storm overflows into inland and coastal waters, and to take such measures. as soon as it is reasonable to demonstrate improved performance of sanitation systems.

Conservative MPs are under tremendous pressure from voters and activists on this issue. In 2020, water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers more than 400,000 times for a total of 3.1 million hours. The discharge of raw sewage via storm overflows is legal in exceptional circumstances such as extreme rains, but figures show that in many cases such discharges occur much more regularly.

Jo Maugham, of the Good Law Project, said the government’s proposal was not worth the paper it was printed on. He said the requirement to “phase down” made no sense and could be met by a water company reducing the amount of wastewater it discharged by as little as 1 / 10,000.

Activist Feargal Sharkey said the government’s amendment was a disgrace. “Right now, dumping sewage into rivers is actually illegal, except in exceptional circumstances. So what the government is about to do today is actually to legalize something which, as we speak this morning, is illegal, ”he told Good. ITV’s Morning Britain.

“What the government is proposing is that a water company will now be allowed to discharge any amount of sewage into a river as long as it can say it is phasing out.”

The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs defended the amendment. The government said: “The amount of wastewater discharged by water companies into our rivers is unacceptable. We have made it clear to water companies that they must drastically reduce wastewater discharges from storm overflows as a priority.

“We are convinced that the provisions of this bill will absolutely reduce the damage caused by storm surges, and any suggestion to the contrary is both fallacious and false.”

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