Harborough council hopes to shine spotlight on water companies over sewage dumps

The practice is allowed during wet weather to prevent pipe networks from backing up.The practice is allowed during wet weather to prevent pipe networks from backing up.
The practice is allowed during wet weather to prevent pipe networks from backing up.
A motion to take action against dispensing of raw sewage into waterways will be discussed at a full council meeting later this month

Harborough District Council will be considering plans to lobby Government to confront water companies over the volumes of sewage being dumped into UK waterways.

A motion, proposed by Liberal Democrat councillor Peter James and seconded by Labour councillor Jim Knight, to take action against dispensing of raw sewage into waterways will be discussed at a full council meeting later this month.

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The request involves writing letters to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State to demand disclosure of figures of how much untreated wastewater is entering UK coastlines, rivers and lakes, and the reality of its environmental impact.

The controversial practice – permitted in the UK during wet weather – is designed to prevent pipe systems from backing up. Although, in the last two years, there have been calls for companies to take steps to keep discharges to a minimum.

Environment Agency figures reported on by the Mail in spring, revealed that raw sewage was dumped into Leicestershire’s waterways for nearly 49,000 hours throughout 2022 and that nearly 7,100 sewage dumping events took place across all constituencies.

Harborough district was the fifth worse off, clocking up 479 sewage dumps - a total of 2,743 hours throughout 2022.

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At the time of the report, Severn Trent – the main company covering Leicestershire – said it had reduced its impact by a third and that it is committed to improving river quality and monitoring 100 per cent of its waterway coverage.

However, not all companies monitor all of their overflow points, with many under investigation for illegal sewage dumping and, most recently, allegations have emerged that Thames, Southern and Wessex Water released sewage during dry weather – a banned practice known as ‘dry spilling’.

The motion, which ultimately wants water companies to be transparent about how much waste is being dispensed, rather than just a timeline, will be discussed during a full council meeting on Monday September 18.

It reads: “The question needs to be asked. Are water firms failing to disclose how much sewage is actually being discharged into rivers, lakes and coastlines? If yes, then it begs the question why and just where is the information?

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“We believe this information to be vital, after all our residents, our communities, and indeed our world, has a right to clean water and we all have a duty to protect our environment.

“How many billions of litres of sewage is being pumped into our precious rivers, lakes and around our coastlines? What is the true extent of environmental damage caused by this scandal is completely unknown?”

It calls on the Secretary of a State and the Prime Minister to ‘directly intervene’, to meet with water firms and demand the full figures, detailing volume and litres of sewage discharged - information it says is ‘essential to understanding the environmental impacts’.

It includes a request that council leader Phil Knowles writes to the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, with copies to district MPs, informing them of the notice of motion and urging swift action and an urgent reply.