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Labour candidate calls for funding to tackle ‘sewage scandal’

The open letter from Sarah Sackman and other campaigners also called for more powers for the Environment Agency reports Egle Rameikaite

Polluted water in Brent Park in Hendon - as Labour candidate Sarah Sackman causes for action to tackle the 'sewage scandal'
Polluted water in Brent Park

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green has written to government MPs to demand action on sewage in England’s rivers. 

Sarah Sackman joined Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon MP and environmental campaigner Feargal Sharkey in writing an open letter to Conservative MPs calling on them to vote for Labour’s bill.

The letter says that not one English river is classed as being in a healthy condition. It criticises the government for giving a green light for water companies to dump sewage and neglect the water infrastructure, while taking billions of pounds in dividends. 

The letter accuses Conservative MPs of showing disregard for the “environment, for public health and for businesses that rely on the beauty and nature of Britain to attract visitors and thrive” by blocking Labour-backed amendments to end sewage dumping.

According to the Environment Agency data, since 2016, a new sewage dumping event has taken place an average of every two-and-a-half minutes, with rivers, lakes, seas, and beaches having faced a staggering 1,276 years’ worth of raw sewage over just a seven-year period. In 2022 alone, an average of 824 sewage dumps a day has been recorded.

Earlier this month, the Finchley candidate visited Dollis Brook to observe the ‘’appalling state’’ of the river. She said, “Local people have told me how worried they are about the state of rivers and streams in this constituency and right across the country. As an environmental lawyer I work on water pollution and I know this is typical of the degraded state of our rivers and waterways everywhere which has taken place under the government’s watch.

“I’m calling today on Mike Freer MP to support Labour’s Bill which will put an end to sewage dumping once and clean up our water system.’’

Labour will use an Opposition Day motion to provide for parliamentary time on Tuesday 2nd May to allow for the passage of the Water Quality (Sewage Discharge) Bill.

The Bill would introduce new measures to set a legal requirement for the monitoring of all sewage outlets and penalties for failures in adhering to monitoring requirements along with automatic fines for sewage dumping. It would also implement a legally binding target to reduce sewage dumping events; would make a requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for the reduction of sewage discharges and regular economic impact assessments.

In a recent response to the latest Environment Agency figures, the water minister Rebecca Pow said: “By bringing in comprehensive monitoring – up from just 7% in 2010 to the most extensive level ever now being at 91% – this government and its regulators have enabled the extent of sewage discharges to be revealed, so that we are better equipped to tackle this challenge.”

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