West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has given her support to a new Bill to help clean up Britain’s rivers from sewage pollution, to help deliver cleaner water in our local rivers and waterways. 

The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill 2019-21 was introduced by Ludlow MP Philip Dunne and has its Second Reading in the House of Commons on 13 November 2020. The Bill places a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters.   

It proposes several other measures, including:  

  • improving transparency and monitoring of the impact of spillages on water quality;  
  • separating surface and foul water drainage systems from new infrastructure and housing development;  
  • encouraging nature-based solutions for wastewater treatment; 
  • requiring water meters for all homes being leased, rented or sold from 2025; 
  • prohibiting use of plastic in flushable products; 
  • promoting improvements in bathing water standards for inland waters and rivers. 

The Bill already enjoys the support of The Rivers Trust, The Angling Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, Wildlife Trusts, Wildlife & Countryside Link, RSPB, Salmon & Trout Conservation, Freshwater Habitats, Bug Life, Waterkeeper Alliance, London Waterkeeper, Windrush Against Pollution, Sewage Free Swimmers, Blue Marine Foundation, Outdoor Swimming Society, British Canoeing, Royal Lifesaving Society, Marinet UK, and the Institute of Fisheries Management.  

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper said:
“I know how important the rivers including Douglas, Tawd and others are to West Lancashire residents, for the health of people who use our rivers for recreation and wellbeing, and as vital habitats for wildlife.   

“It’s shocking to read how many hours sewage was discharged into our rivers in the last year alone with 49 sewer storm overflows and nearly 1,400 hours of spill during 2019. I am supporting the Bill and I have written directly to United Utilities about their responsibility to ensure the quality of our beloved rivers.”  

The discharge of untreated sewage is a major part of the problem, in 2019, raw sewage was discharged into rivers across England and Wales for over 1.5 million hours, compromising vital habitats for wildlife and endangering the health of people who use our rivers for recreation.  

40% of all our rivers in England and Wales are polluted with sewage, with just 16% in a good ecological condition. Despite the 25 Year Environment Plan’s ambition to return at least three quarters of our waters to their natural state by 2027, river quality has not improved in four years.  

You can join the campaign here: https://www.sas.org.uk/EndSewagePollution-SewageBill or show your support by tweeting #EndSewagePollution, #TogetherForRivers and #AnglersAgainstPollution  

Philip Dunne MP said: 
“I know Rosie Cooper MP shares my view that we should clean up our rivers and prevent discharge of sewage pollution into our precious waterways. So, I am delighted to have their support for my Bill, which could make a real difference to the water quality of rivers in West Lancashire.”  

The full text of The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill and further information can be found at: (https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2625)  

Untreated sewage is discharged directly into rivers from licensed Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) managed by the 9 water and sewerage companies in England, which are permitted by the Environment Agency (EA) to exceed consented concentrations during periods of heavy rainfall. Recent data obtained by the Guardian [link to article] from water companies in England admitted that 6,508 inland CSOs discharged untreated sewage into rivers over 200,000 times for over 1.5 million hours in 2019, suggesting this occurred far more regularly than just during periods of intense rainfall.  

The government set an ambition in the 25 Year Environment Plan to improve at least three quarters of UK waters and return them to their natural state. However, the latest assessment by the Environment Agency showed that just 16% of England’s rivers meet the criteria for ‘good ecological status’, unchanged from 2016.  

In response to the increasing threat of pollution, the EU developed the Water directive Framework (WDF). As of 2017, The EA uses the WDF to classify the status of surface water bodies. Rivers are rated on their chemical as well as biological status, to determine an overall rating of ‘Bad’, ‘Poor’, ‘Moderate’ or ‘Good’. The directive establishes a framework for the protection of all waters including rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater, and their dependent wildlife/habitats under one piece of legislation. To find out more visit: [https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2017/] or [https://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/] 

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