Sewage Pollution: Addressing its Impact on Wildlife

May 20, 2022 9:30 AM
By Zoe Franklin

Ever since the extent of sewage pollution in our rivers and coastal waters, I have regularly had conversations with residents who are angry and upset over the Conservative Government's failure to stop sewage dumping in our rivers and coastal waters.

The Conservative Government has tried to say publicly that it shares that anger and is acting decisively to bring an end to the issue. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Protect wildlife name and shameLegislation has been progressing through Parliament that could be used to bring an end to the practice and force the water companies responsible to clean up the mess they have made as well. Conservative MPs have refused to put any meaningful targets or sanctions into the new law.

In March, after toxic substances were detected in otters in rivers across England and Wales, the Lib Dems tried a different approach and put forward an amendment to the Animal Sentience Bill that would have led to:

  • Water companies being forced to produce reports on the number of animals killed by toxic and sewage waste dumped in rivers.
  • The Government required to publish an annual report into the number of animals killed by poor water quality in rivers.
  • The naming and shaming of water companies found to dump sewage in rivers which leads to animals being killed

Once again, the Conservatives, Angela Richardson MP included, voted against this important strengthening of the law to protect river wildlife from sewage dumping.

Of course, it's not just river wildlife that is being put at risk. As I have highlighted previously, so many of us have leisure time on or alongside local rivers, including walking our dogs and allowing them to swim or paddle.

The lack of action from Conservative MPs means that water companies, such as Guildford and Cranleigh's local water company Thames Water, are continuing to get away with allowing sewage discharges into our rivers - including the River Wey. In fact, over the past three years sewage has flowed into our local rivers and streams for an average of 1260 hours.

The Liberal Democrats and I continue to keep up the pressure in the battle to end sewage pollution and I encourage you to do so too.

The full list of how MPs voted on the amendment can be found here.

Full text of Liberal Democrat amendment to Animal Sentience Bill:

To move the following Clause-

"Report on the impact of government policy on river pollution on sentient animals"

The Animal Sentience Committee shall produce a report on the impact of government policy on river pollution on sentient animals.

(a) The annual report must include:

(i) the number of sentient animals killed or injured as a result of polluted rivers.

(ii) a description of the actions of water companies' to guarantee the protection of sentient animals.

(iii) the effect of government policy on (i) and (ii).

(b) The first annual report on the impact of polluted rivers on sentient animals may relate to any 12 month period that includes the day on which this section comes into force.

(c) The annual report must be published and laid before Parliament within 4 months of the last day of the period to which the report relates.

Member's Explanatory Statement

This new clause would require the Animal Sentience Committee to produce a report on the impact of polluted rivers on sentient animals.