‘Stop raw sewage being pumped into our rivers’, demands Tony Lloyd MP

Shocking figures show that on average, United Utilities discharged raw sewage every 6 minutes, devastating the North West’s tourism and leisure hotspots. That’s the equivalent of 253 years-worth of raw sewage.

Rochdale MP, Tony Lloyd, said, “The decision made by the Tories to allow sewage to be dumped into rivers and beaches isn’t just a blatant disregard for our habitats and surroundings, it’s a significant public health hazard.

“No one should have to worry about enjoying our natural environments, or swimming in sewage infested waters when they visit the beach.

“A coalition of MPs, some Tory but mainly Labour, voted to stop to raw sewage discharge should now explain why they failed to protect their local beauty spots. But the government whipped Tory MPs in the most part to vote for this.

“Labour in government will clean up the Tories’ mess by ensuring water bosses are held accountable both legally and financially for their recklessness, through enforcement of unlimited fines and tougher regulations that prevent them from gaming the system.”

Analysis of Environment Agency figures obtained under Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party shows that since 2018, raw sewage has been pumped into the natural environments in the North West for a total of 2,219,418 hours.

Areas impacted include popular tourist and bathing spots such as rivers, lakes, and beaches – spoiling areas of natural beauty and risking public health.

Cumulatively, this equates to a duration of 92,475 days or 253 years of sewage discharge taking place and polluting its environment, a damning indictment of 12 years of Tory failure to hold water bosses to account.

The data also points to a 107% increase in the number of monitored discharge hours, between 2018 and 2021. This highlights that the situation is only drastically worsening under the Tories, and a consequence of their two-thirds budgetary cut to the Environment Agency grant, which covers environmental surveillance and enforcement.

The full scale of the pollution is likely to be even greater, given that Event Duration Monitoring does not cover every permitted storm overflow.

Labour Party analysis also shows that between 2018 and 2021 there were 358,637 spill events into the North West’s waters. This equates to a shocking average of a sewage spill taking place every 6 minutes.

This comes amid revelations that the zombie Tory government shelved sewage discharge reduction plans at the beginning of August – but has since u-turned due to mounting public pressure.


Notes to editors:

Event Duration Monitoring – Storm Overflows          
National trend      TotalEquiv in daysEquiv in mthsEquiv in yrsAvg spill every x mins% increase
Total Duration (hours)100,533170,269.00898,784.002,489,167.003,101,150.002,667,452.009,427,355392,80612,914.001,076.00 2,553
No. of monitored spills12,63733,159.00146,930.00292,864.00403,375.00372,533.001,261,498   Spill every 2.5 mins2,847
United Utilities      TotalEquiv in daysEquiv in mthsEquiv in yrsAvg spill every x mins% increase
Total Duration (hours)N/AN/A260,292691,923726,450540,7532,219,41892,4753,040253 107
No. of monitored spillsN/AN/A50,190.00112,919.00113,940.0081,588.00358,637   Spill every 6 mins62

• Event duration monitoring – lifting the lid on storm overflows: https://environmentagency.blog.gov.uk/2021/03/31/event-duration-monitoring-lifting-the-lid-on-storm-overflows/.
• The head of the Environment Agency has called for the government to reinstate a £120m grant to help increase surveillance of water companies and cut pollution in rivers: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/23/environment-agency-needs-120m-grant-restored-to-protect-rivers-says-ceo.
• The ‘Storm overflows: reducing sewage discharges’ consultation said the storm overflows plan would be laid on 1st Sept, taking account of consultation responses which would be published 12 weeks after it closed (which would have been 3rd Aug) https://consult.defra.gov.uk/water-industry/storm-overflows-discharge-reduction-plan/. But the 4 August update only said: “The Government response will be published alongside the storm overflows discharge reduction plan in due course” which suggested that the Government had abandoned the 1st September.
• An update amid mounting pressure, the Government scrambled to reinstate its 1st September commitment in a press release on August 18th. https://deframedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/08/18/government-action-against-sewage-discharges-from-storm-overflows/
• Since privatisation, shareholders have been paid £72bn in dividends: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/15/uk-water-boss-bonuses-reservoirs-built-leaks-fixed.