Will Guildford's MP recognise local strength of feeling on sewage in our rivers and vote accordingly?
By Zoe Franklin
It was clear at the Lib Dem organised protest in Guildford on 30th October, that people are angry at the prospect of raw sewage flowing into the River Wey and other local rivers. And rightly so.
As I shared in my speech at that protest, in 2020 sewage flowed into local rivers and watercourses for approximately 1789 hours - and that's just at the sites that have monitoring equipment. This is an increase of 698 hours from 2019 and it's all from local water company Thames Water's facilities. As a result, the River Wey, as it flows through Guildford and Waverley Boroughs. is one of the 23% worst impacted rivers in the country.
The impact of sewage in our rivers is devastating; for wildlife and plants and for all of us who use the rivers for our leisure...including our four-legged friends (as one protestor pointed out to me). We need urgent action to turn things around.
On Monday 8th November the Environment Bill returns to the House of Commons and with it two amendments relating to the issue of sewage overflow into rivers and coastal waters. One is from the Government which seeks to remove crucial text from the Lords that would require water companies to take 'all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows'. And another from the Lords which seeks to put it back in, albeit slightly amended.
So much for the Conservative Government u-turn on this issue! Here in black and white is the Government failing to ensure concrete action from water companies to address the issue of sewage flowing into our rivers is laid down in law.
Guildford's MP has stated publicly that "it is clearly unacceptable for sewage to continue to be discharged into the River Wey at current levels" and that "the government has come forward to bolster the bill by making it a duty of water companies to secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows." However, the Conservative Government's proposed wording falls very short of achieving that.
If Guildford's MP really believes that sewage discharge into the River Wey is unacceptable, her only option to ensure the change necessary to force water companies to take action is to vote against the Government and in favour of the Lords amendment. I urge her to do so and shall watch with interest as to which way she chooses to vote, along with many other concerned local constituents.
7th November 2021