Show search form

Dramatic U-Turn on Sewage Pollution Amendment

Last week in the House of Commons, a majority of Conservative MP’s voted down a Lords amendment to the Environment Bill that would have placed stronger legal duties on water companies to reduce harmful sewage discharge into rivers.

After a huge public outcry in the media over the last few days - and thanks to all YOUR hard work making our voice heard, the Government has now done a U-turn and agreed to strengthen the Environment Bill with its own amendment.

A blog, published yesterday on Defra’s website, stated that the Government would be putting forward its own amendment on sewage pollution, establishing a ‘duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows’.

This is good news for the future of our rivers, but does the Government’s wording go far enough?

On Tuesday evening, the House of Lords voted to approve an updated version of The Duke of Wellington’s amendment which would strengthen the wording further still. Instead of ‘securing a progressive reduction’, Lord Wellington’s amendment would compel water companies to ‘take all reasonable steps to ensure sewage is not discharged from storm overflows’.

The Environment Bill is now due to return to the House of Commons next week when the amendments will again be voted on. With the Government eager to get the Bill passed before COP26, it is unclear how the next few days will play out.

What is important is that you continue to explain to your MP why urgent action is needed on YOUR river! This excellent blog by the Rivers Trust is well worth a read to help challenge some of the figures put out by the Government to defend last week’s vote.

Did you know in 2020 alone, raw sewage was discharged into UK Rivers and seas over 400,000 times, spilling for over 3.1m hours (Environment Agency)?