This week the government had the opportunity with the Environment Bill to put it beyond all doubt that water companies have to act to stop pumping raw sewage into rivers and the ocean. Instead they decided to recommend their MPs reject key amendments that would have stopped water companies exploiting legal loopholes and treating rivers and the ocean as open sewers.
Many people have argued that its already illegal for Water Companies to pump out raw sewage, and yes that’s true. But is that working? Well clearly not, allowing 400,000 sewage pollution events in a year doesn’t sound like very effective legislation to us. Putting this legal duty on water companies to take steps to reduce their reliance on CSO’s could have made a real difference by forcing water companies to finally tackle their shocking sewage pollution record.
The government will argue that they have already made significant changes to the Environment Bill to tackle sewage pollution, and that’s partly true. This includes new sewage discharge reporting and monitoring duties and, more importantly, the government has to make a plan to tackle sewage pollution. Whilst this is good, what we really, really needed from this Bill was some clear and tangible action to End Sewage Pollution – we simply don’t have this yet.
The campaign to #EndSewagePollution is far from over. Our voices and our action meant the parliamentary vote on this was very close with MPs from all parties voting in support of this legal duty on water companies. And whilst we lost the vote, this tight race will have sent a clear message to Ministers that much more must be done.
“In this most important of environmental decades, it’s shocking that the government recommended that MPs reject progressive and ambitious amendments that would protect water, air and nature.
Why wouldn’t they want water companies to have a legal obligation not to pollute our rivers and ocean with sewage, for example? It beggars belief and hardly shows a commitment to be the greenest government ever. It’s time for more ambitious thinking and law that builds protected nature back into public ownership rather than leaving it to the ravages of shareholder interests.
Thanks to all the supporters who contacted their MP – we need your help more than ever in the campaign to End Sewage Pollution.”
Hugo Tagholm, CEO Surfers Against Sewage
The Bill still has a few final stages to go through, so we can still pile the pressure on the government to be more ambitious, hold polluters to account and deliver the change we need to #EndSewagePollution.
So until the ink is dry on the Environment Bill lets keep on writing to our MPs to demand change.