Strengthening the law around sewage systems

By clairefowler

As we reported in June, ELF and our professional network have been supporting Marinet as they propose amendments to the Environment Bill that would strengthen the law around sewage systems. Recently, the public’s eyes have been opened to the misuse of storm overflow systems across the UK and various campaigns have been launched to improve regulation of the water industry.

On 13 September, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Environment Bill placing a new duty on water companies and the government to take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows. The amendment also requires that they demonstrate improvements in the sewerage systems and progressive reductions in the harm caused by untreated sewage discharges.

It remains to be seen whether these amendments will survive the Environment Bill’s already delayed passage through Parliament. Although there is a growing awareness around water pollution, a recent survey by YouGov featured in the Troubled Waters report found that only 17% of the public think that sewage pollution is the biggest issue facing water quality in the UK. Further, nearly half (43%) believe that waterways are in good condition despite only 14% of English rivers meeting the criteria for “good” ecological status.

Clearly, there is still much work to be done. ELF will continue to assist grassroots communities to raise awareness of, and find innovative legal solutions to, this ever-more pressing issue.