Let's end sewage pollution now

Call on your MP to pipe up for our rivers and seas by demanding the government adopt an action plan that’s fit for purpose to end sewage pollution.

It’s quick and easy, just fill in the form below!

 

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Your MP is
Layla Moran

MPs love to hear about the experiences of their constituents so be sure to add in a line or two about why you want them to clean up your favourite spot. And don’t forget to add your home address to show you’re a constituent.

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Example message to MP

Dear Layla Moran,

How do you feel about sewage being poured into rivers and seas in your constituency last year over XXX times, a total of XXX hours?

How do you feel about sewage being poured into rivers and seas across England over 370,000 times last year, a total of 2.6 million hours (for more info visit Is my river fit to play in?)?

I was shocked to hear that sewage continued to be poured into rivers and seas across the UK last year (for more info visit Is my river fit to play in?).

The government has published a consultation on its plan to reduce sewage discharges. I am writing to tell you that I am thoroughly disappointed with this plan.

The plan completely fails to acknowledge the urgency needed to address the problem. Targets stretch way out to 2050 with over half of the storm overflows still set to be spewing a toxic cocktail of chemicals and sewage into our waterways in 2040. This is simply too slow. This plan needs to be much more holistic with targets for government and regulators too.

This is an opportunity for rivers and seas to be fit for everyone to enjoy and nature to thrive. The opportunity is being wasted.

This is a huge opportunity to make progress on tackling sewage pollution. It's an opportunity for rivers and seas to be fit for everyone to enjoy and nature to thrive. But the opportunity is being wasted.

The plan will only apply to England but I believe will set the tone for policy here too. I know the plan will only apply to England but I believe it will set the tone for policy in the devolved administrations. I’m calling on you, as my MP, to demand that the government rethink this plan. It needs to be much more ambitious to address the root cause of the problem and reflect the urgency of action needed. Environmental groups have put together a briefing for MP’s which I urge you to read.

Kind Regards

XXXXX

[Add your address here]

Your MP represents you in parliament and as a constituent, you have the power to demand they support the change you want to see.

We are calling on the government to rethink its Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan. They tell us that sewage pollution is a priority. But the plan doesn’t reflect the urgency needed to tackle the problem. Under the plan, half of storm overflows would still be pouring untreated sewage into our waterways in 2040.

Over 44,000 of you signed a petition calling on the government to introduce world leading water quality legislation to #EndSewagePollution. And tens of thousands more of you emailed your MP last year demanding that they support amendments to the Environment Act to place a legal obligation on water companies to stop discharging sewage into rivers and seas. The Government has a chance to do that NOW.

© Ben Birchall

Why we need action?

Sewage pollution still plagues the rivers and ocean. Last year there were over 370,000 discharges of untreated sewage into English waters adding up to over 2.7 million hours. And during the bathing season water companies issued over 3,300 notifications for sewage being discharged straight into UK coastal bathing waters.

The sheer volume of sewage and run-off entering the water means the UK is ranked last in EU countries for bathing water quality. Water quality testing undertaken by Surfers Against Sewage volunteers last year also suggested that 75% of rivers monitored pose a continuous serious risk to human health.

When we swim, surf, paddle or play in water that has raw sewage in it, we’re at risk of catching gastroenteritis, ear, nose and throat infections, skin infections, and even hepatitis and e-coli. Water users in the UK are just as likely to get ill from seawater as they were in the 1990s.

Poor water quality also harms river and ocean wildlife, reducing biodiversity and damaging delicate ecosystems. Only 14% of rivers meet good ecological status and no river passes chemical standards.

Is your local river affected?

Learn about sewage pollution

What are we asking for?

We’re calling on the government to rethink its Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan.

We want:

  • A broader scope of the plan that addresses the root causes of the problem.
  • Targets for government action with more detail on how different government departments will implement the plan in an integrated way.
  • Much greater ambition and urgency in the targets set for water companies, with a higher and more immediate action to reduce harm by 2030.

The government’s plan therefore needs to tackle:

  • under-investment in sewage infrastructure (financial regulation / corporate governance) by water companies;
  • lack of enforcement of existing regulations by the Environment Agency and by OfWat;
  • blockages caused by Fats Oils and Greases (FOGs), plus wet wipes and other ‘un-flushables’;
  • the lack of options to separate waste water and the automatic ‘right to connect’ to sewers;
  • the lack of uptake of sustainable urban drainage (SuDs) designs by Local Authorities, Highway Authorities and developers to help slow the flow of stormwater into sewers.

You have the power to make change happen, so write to your MP and demand they PIPE UP for rivers and the ocean.

Learn more about the Sewage Bill

Learn more about the Environment Act

© Sally Low

What happened in the Environment Act?

When the Environment Bill was first introduced to parliament, in 2020, there was hardly any focus on tackling sewage pollution and improving water quality. The #EndSewagePollution campaign brought together the passion and expertise of Ocean Activists, river lovers, NGOs, journalists, politicians and legal experts to catapult sewage pollution right to the top of the political agenda and on to the front pages. The campaign resulted in several key legal duties being added into UK law:

  1. Water companies must provide real-time information any time that a Sewer Overflow discharges. This will allow us to make more informed decisions about when to use our rivers and seas.
  2. Water companies have to monitor and report on the impact of sewage discharges on water quality. This, coupled with the real-time reporting on Sewage Overflow use, will give us a clear picture on the effects of sewage pollution and ensure we can tackle the worst polluters first.
  3. Government must make a plan to tackle sewage pollution and present this to parliament by September 2022. This plan must be bold, ambitious and deliver action fast.
  4. Finally, after huge public pressure from Ocean Activists, the government placed a legal duty on water companies to progressively reduce the adverse impact of discharges from storm overflows. Whilst we campaigned for a more ambitious duty, government was forced to make a ‘u-bend u-turn’ to adopt this measure in the Act which was a resounding success. The government claims that the Act will be effective. We will use the new legislation to hold government and water companies to account in our mission to end sewage pollution for good.

Before the #EndSewagePollution campaign kicked off, none of these duties to improve the state of UK water quality existed. Their inclusion is testament to the power of our grassroots activism.

MPs who supported the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill or its objectives

Supportive Organisations