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City MP backs Surfers Against Sewage campaign to clean up our waters after Southern Water’s failings

Government has been slammed for its record on poor water quality of our rivers and inland waters and the impact of sewage pollution on precious wildlife and ecosystems, as well as on our health by Stephen Morgan MP.

New research has found that all of England’s rivers and lakes were required to have achieved good ecological status by 2015 but only 14% of rivers met this standard by 2019, with no progress made over the past four years.

Similarly, information as part of campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has found that sewage wastewater discharges by water companies into rivers have been found to account for damage to 36% of waterways. Water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers over 200,000 times last year.

Southern Water was also found this week to have failed to notify the public about “the majority” of its sewage spills this summer, putting thousands of swimmers and water users at risk.

Analysis by SAS found Southern Water did not alert the charity’s Safer Seas Service about all sewage overflows into bathing waters between 15 May and 30 September. Whereas last year the company issued 690 notifications of spills, this year only 78 alerts were sent to the SAS real-time alert system on pollution releases for water users.

Continuing to raise these concerns in Parliament following a meeting with local campaigners last month at Langstone Harbour last month, Stephen Morgan MP has backed the campaign by Surfers Against Sewage to clean up our waters.

The city MP said:

“People in Portsmouth are rightly shocked at the frequency of sewage discharges and the damage it does to some of our country’s most valued and delicate habitats. This latest information is of real concern to many of my constituents.

Regulation needs to be tightened to stop water companies using discharges as a day-to-day measure, when it was put in place for only the most extreme circumstances. Much more needs to be done to make our water clean enough for swimming and pollution-free for fish, birds, insects and mammals.

I have been taking a range of action on this and recently met with campaigners who have concerns over discharges into Langstone Harbour and The Solent. Liaising with Surfers Against Sewage I plan to put even further pressure on Government so that they finally listen”.

Fellow parliamentarian Philip Dunne MP has proposed the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill which would place a duty on water companies to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged into waterways.

It was scheduled for a Second Reading debate on 13 November, but disappointingly this has been pushed back until 15 January 2021.

The MP has also tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill requiring water companies to address water quality and the impact of sewage discharges in their annual plans.

The Government has set up a new taskforce with the Environment Agency, Water UK and Ofwat to address the problem of sewage discharges from storm overflows.

Stephen Morgan MP added:

“Action by Ministers to date remains insufficient. Government must act urgently to restore and enhance our rivers, waterways and seawater.

In recent years, customers have faced rising water bills while those at the top of water companies have received multimillion-pound packages, huge bonuses and dividends. 

With the growing climate crisis, I believe we need a larger strategy to tackle current and future challenges for our water and sewerage system.

I know how important this issue is to Portsmouth people which is why I remain committed to working with local campaigners to take further action”.

To find out more about the campaign visit www.sas.org.uk/water-quality/