Water: Sewage

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 14th March 2022.

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Photo of Virendra Sharma Virendra Sharma Labour, Ealing, Southall

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether he plans to take steps to ensure that no raw sewage is discharged into (a) the Thames, (b) English rivers and (c) the sea in 2022.

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

This Government has made improving water quality a priority, and has been clear that the current use of storm overflows is completely unacceptable. However, storm overflows are a historic infrastructure issue and stopping their usage today would lead to sewage backing up into homes and businesses during the next heavy rainfall event.

This Government is the first to take steps to tackle sewage overflows, but we know that this is extremely challenging and costly, as it will require significant infrastructure upgrades including separating pipes across the country. We will therefore shortly be publishing a Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan for consultation, to gather views from the public on our proposed approach and the trade-offs between ambition and pace of change, and disruption and costs to consumers.

The Government has a duty to produce this plan under the landmark Environment Act 2021 which introduces a raft of duties to reduce the adverse effects of storm overflows on the environment and public health, including a report setting out the actions that would be needed to completely eliminate discharges from storm overflows in England. We will outline further detail on this shortly.

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