Sewage: Rivers

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 13th July 2020.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Social Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with representatives of water companies on ending the practice of overflow raw sewage being pumped into rivers; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Combined sewer systems which collect waste water and rain water run-off account for the majority of sewerage systems in England. Such systems have a finite capacity and can be temporarily overwhelmed by significant rainfall. Sewer overflows are a feature of these systems and are designed to act as a safety valve to allow the excess waste water to discharge to local waters. This is to avoid waste water flooding streets, homes and other properties, including the sewage treatment plants themselves.

To prevent discharges, by the end of the year water companies will have installed monitors on up to 13,000 of the 15,000 sewer overflows in England, with more installations planned afterwards. These monitors will measure how often and for how long overflows operate, helping inform where improvement works are required and providing information to the public about spills. This information has been used to help develop the environmental programme that the water companies will be implementing over the next five years, which includes around £4 billion of investment to reduce pollution from sewage. This environmental programme resulted from discussions between Ministers and water companies.

In addition, the Environment Bill will place a statutory requirement on water companies to produce drainage and sewerage management plans, currently being produced on a non-statutory basis. This will further help water companies identify opportunities to better manage sewage discharges and tackle future risks.

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