Huw Merriman, MP for the Bexhill and Battle, secured a Westminster debate on sewage discharges which took place yesterday (Wednesday 12 October).
The MP used the debate to put forward a number of proposals to the Environment Minister, Trudy Harrison MP, to help expedite the removal of sewage from sea and rivers through combined sewer overflows. His key ask is to ensure that all agencies involved in water quality, sewage and surface water removal have a statutory duty to work collectively to reduce sewage spills and storm outflows which blight the quality of bathing water and rivers.
Mr Merriman has long campaigned for accelerated targets for the effective monitoring and reduction of sewage discharges. He has been working closely with the responsible organisations, including the Environment Agency, Southern Water and highways to better understand the causes of sewage spills and how the water is monitored and analysed. This work has led him to conclude that the solution to reducing water pollution does not only lie with the water companies.
During his speech in the debate he called on the government to examine the data collection and water testing regimes to ensure they are fit for purpose, to legislate to reduce the impact of surface water going into combined sewage systems from roads and housing developments thus reducing pressure on the sewerage system and to create incentives and guidance to help householders reduce the amount of surface water from their properties entering combined sewer systems.
Speaking after the debate, Huw said:
“Whilst the Sewage Discharge Plan is an excellent start by the government to remove disgusting sewage pollution from our bathing waters and rivers, I don’t believe that this in itself will be enough to clean up our waters and I would like to see more ambitious targets.
The centuries old system of combined sewage overflows has to be fixed and it is right that this is being prioritised. However, it is clear from talking to a wide range of stakeholders that not all the pollution warnings about the quality of bathing water at Bexhill are the direct result sewage spills. We need to carry out far more detailed work to understand the sources of pollutants coming off our roads and agricultural land during times of rainfall too as this water enters our sea. That’s why I used the debate to call on the government to invest resources in improving the water testing and monitoring regimes, removing surface water from our sewage system, putting more controls regarding sewage and surface water into the planning system and incentivising householders to remove or slow down the surface water from their households entering the combined sewers.
I and my coastal neighbours in East Sussex - Sally-Ann Hart MP, Maria Caulfield MP and Caroline Ansell MP are united in our desire to protect our precious bathing water which is so important to our residents, businesses and visitors.”
Summing up at the end of the debate Huw asked the Minster to take away the proposals from all the MPs who took part in the debate for consideration and comment by the government which she confirmed she would do.
The entire debate can be watched here.