How much does it cost to fix the sewage scandal?

How much does it cost to fix the sewage scandal?

How much does it cost to fix the sewage scandal?

Last week we wrote about the huge cost figure that had been attached to improving the UK’s sewage network to prevent raw sewage, complete with plastic, being dumped in our river’s and the sea. This week, we have discovered that this figure does not appear anywhere in the government’s own “Storm Taskforce” report, which was created in conjunction with OFWAT, Water Companies and the Environment Agency.

So what’s going on? Well it appears the figure of “up to £660 billion” was part of the template issued to the 265 Conservative MPs who voted against the Lords amendment, to defend their position. This amendment had concrete steps to reduce dumping and hold water companies legally responsible for sewage leaks. No source has been given for this figure and all the MPs who have used it (without question) have refused to give a breakdown of how it has been arrived at.

Our own MP John Howell, has refused to back away from this number, despite being presented with evidence that it is more than 10x the real figure. He presents this debate as a choice between flooding people’s homes with sewage or spending an astronomical sum of money, which we don’t feel is an accurate representation of where the various campaign groups stand on this.

I have been looking at this a great deal and discussing it with experts on and offline to try and get to the truth. I have appeared on BBC Radio Berkshire, BBC Radio Oxfordshire and the Henley Standard talking about this issue, particularly in relation to open water swimming, which is something I do most days in the Thames.

From what I have read and learned through discussions, this figure of up to £660 billion, would appear to be a figure for completely separating the UK’s storm water and sewage systems, which amounts to a near complete replacement of the network. Is this necessary?

Well, key players like the Rivers Trust, Angling Trust and Non Plastic Beach’s corporate charity of choice, Surfers Against Sewage, all agree with the numerous scientists and experts in the area, that this level of action is totally unnecessary. Much of our sewage system works well and many other sections could be made to work with targeted actions at key points to prevent or massively reduce storm overflows. A very rational discussion of this is contained in the blog linked HERE

We shouldn’t forget in all of this, that much of the issue is coming from sewage treatment facilities having had minimal investment in the last decades, despite serving many more people’s bottoms than they were designed for. Emergency or exceptional measures are being used when it hasn’t rained, or it has rained at a level that can only be considered normal in a country internationally renowned for rain. A water company cannot have a Combined Stormwater Outfall or CSO operating 58 times a year and claim this is down to exceptional circumstances. By definition, more than once a week over a calendar year is not exceptional, it is just part of normal business.

If like me, you would like rivers to be maintained so that wildlife and people can enjoy them without them being choked with weed from excessive nutrients, full of plastic or poo, then write to your local MP, particularly if they are one of the 265 who voted against the Lords amendment. Be polite, but firm, don’t accept the £660 billion nonsense, or that the new proposal from the government is enough. As it stands, the government’s new direction looks to allow even more latitude for “emergency” spills than today!  

Enjoy your week,


Co-founder, Non Plastic Beach

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