Labour: Almost a million hours of sewage discharge into coastal constituencies

Almost a million hours worth of sewage discharges occurred across coastal constituencies last year, according to Labour analysis.

The party has highlighted data from the Environment Agency (EA) which it says shows 141,777 sewage dumping events across 137 of a total of 139 coastal constituencies in England and Wales in 2022.

Shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon said people who live by the coast “should be able to just enjoy the place where they live without having to worry about encountering filthy raw sewage”.

He accused the Conservatives of allowing communities to be treated as “open sewers”.

Labour’s analysis says that in 2022 sewage was discharged in coastal constituencies 141,777 times, or once every three minutes and 45 seconds, adding up to a combined total of 980,999 hours, equivalent to more than 111 years.

Labour said its figures are based on EA data and data compiled by Top of the Poops, a website which publishes sewage discharge data broken down by categories including constituency boundaries.

Of the coastal constituencies for which data was included, the figures show Torridge and West Devon had the highest total hours of sewage discharges, with 57,494, and Devon had the lowest, with a combined total of two hours recorded.

EA figures released last month show that last year across England sewage discharges fell by 19%, down to a total of 301,091 spills.

The drop was largely due to dry weather and not action taken by water companies, the EA said.

Mr McMahon is bringing forward a Private Member’s Bill which his party claims would enact its plans to curb sewage discharges by 2030, and includes proposals to automatically fine sewage dumping and implement legally binding reduction targets.

Labour has previously said it would introduce a legally binding target to end 90% of sewage discharges by 2030 and stronger sanctions and fines for bosses and companies who fail to do so.

“Coastal communities should be able to just enjoy the place where they live without having to worry about encountering filthy raw sewage.

“The next Labour government will build a better Britain, ending the Tory sewage scandal by delivering mandatory monitoring on all sewage outlets, introducing automatic fines for discharges, setting ambitious targets for stopping systematic sewage dumping and ensuring that water bosses are held to account for negligence.”

A senior Conservative Party source said: “Labour’s plan would see raw sewage coming into people’s homes whilst taxing you for the privilege.

“They did nothing to monitor water quality when they were in government and are ignoring failures where they are in charge – sewage is being dumped more frequently in Wales under Labour.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “This Government is the first to take such comprehensive action on storm overflows – and our new Plan for Water sets out the increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation to tackle this issue.

“We have introduced compulsory monitoring, set the strictest targets ever on water companies to reduce discharges and required them to deliver the largest infrastructure programme in their history.

“The Environment Secretary has demanded an action plan on every storm overflow from every company in England, prioritising those near bathing waters. We are also consulting to give regulators more powers to impose much larger penalties for polluters without needing to go to court.”

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