Angling Trust welcomes plan to stop dumping raw sewage in our rivers

The Angling Trust has welcomed the news from government of their intention to introduce laws to stop the dumping of sewage into our rivers.

The government move comes as a result of pressure from the Angling Trust, the Rivers Trust and Surfers Against Sewage as part of the broader #EndSewagePollution coalition, which includes the Angling Trust’s Anglers Against Pollution campaign, and our support for the Private Member’s Bill by Philip Dunne MP calling for further action on storm overflows.

These overflows are designed to relieve the sewage system in “exceptional circumstance” such as during heavy rain events, to prevent sewage backing up and flooding people’s home.  In reality, the overflows are used, in some cases, almost continuously.

As the Anglers Against Pollution campaign reported, in 2019 we saw 6,508 storm overflows release untreated sewage into our rivers 204,134 times.  In total, they discharged raw sewage for 1.53 million hours across nine water companies.

Stuart Singleton-White, head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said:

“At last the government has responded to the clamour for more to be done to stop water companies dumping sewage into our rivers, not occasionally but in places almost daily.  This has been a scandal that should have been tackled a long time ago.

“But the measure announced today by the government are the minimum necessary.  What we need is for these measures to drive action.  That is not guaranteed.  We will continue to fight to stop water companies and agriculture from polluting our rivers.  The problems go beyond storm overflows.  We need action to invest in better sewage treatment across the board, and in supporting and then enforcing farmers to follow the rules when it comes to protecting our rivers.”

Today’s announcement comes against a backdrop of dither and delay over the government’s landmark Environment Bill, which is not due to return to Parliament until the new session in May.  It marks a small step forward from their announcement in January this year on the recommendations of their joint task force on sewage discharges, which promised little more than counting pollution incidents rather than doing anything about them.

The new measures announced today will see:

  • a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
  • a duty on government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and
  • a duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.

Singleton-White added:

“Plans and reports are fine, but only if they lead to action, to change and to a better environment.  In themselves, none of these new duties will lead to that.  What matters now is what the government, the Environment Agency and water companies do.

“A lot of credit must go to the tireless work of Philip Dunne MP who, as sponsor of his Private Member’s Bill and chair of the Environment Audit Committee, has pushed this issue up the government’s agenda.  These measures must be included in the much delayed Environment Bill, and the Bill itself strengthened to ensure robust protection and action of our rivers and lakes.  Nothing short of this will do.”

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