Environment

Tory MP suggests home drainage systems are to blame for sewage being dumped in the sea

Mark Spencer also voted against a legal requirement to force water companies to prevent raw sewage flowing out of storm overflows

sewage

Sewage pollution blights some of the UK's most idyllic spots. Image: Nick Jones, Cove Cottages

A Tory MP has appeared to blame people’s home drainage systems for tonnes of raw sewage being dumped into the sea in Cornwall.

Mark Spencer, who last year voted to allow water firms to carry on dumping sewage in rivers, urged people to check their plumbing during an interview on BBC News.

The environment minister was grilled on the issue after horrifying videos of sewage turning a Cornwall beach’s water murky brown surfaced on social media on Sunday.

Spencer blamed the flow of sewage into St Agnes beach on huge downpours of rain flowing out of storm overflows, then called on people to “check where your down right goes, your water spout off your roof, it’s very important it goes into a top water drain.”

Doctor William Stableforth also shared a video of brown sewage water pouring onto Cornwall’s St Agnes beach, calling on people to report it to South West Water. Sharing the video with the water company, he wrote: “Shit pouring into the sea. This is a crime. Our seas don’t belong to you and your shareholders for profit.”

Spencer was among Tory MPs to vote to reject an amendment to the Environment Bill that would stop sewage being dumped into rivers. The amendment would have imposed a duty on water companies to “take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows”. 

Cornish MPs Scott Mann, Steve Double and Cherilyn Mackrory also voted down the amendment, which was tabled after the Environment Agency called for water company bosses to face jail terms for repeated sewage spills in a report showing companies are actually getting worse at tackling spills.

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 “The shocking scenes of sewage pouring into the sea in St Agnes at the end of half-term weekend were sickening, but sadly unsurprising,” said Amy Slack, head of campaigns and policy at Surfers Against Sewage.

“Ineffective regulation and weak enforcement have led us to a position where 2.7 million hours of raw sewage were pumped into our waterways last year, poisoning precious ecosystems and making people sick.” 

“We demand that the government urgently reviews its wholly inadequate sewage action plan, properly funds the industry regulator to hold water companies to account, and finally makes efforts to put an end to sewage pollution for good,” she continued. 

https://twitter.com/williamstablef1/status/1586666832244736001

The Good Law Project and surfer and campaigner, Hugo Tagholm, are lobbying the government to rewrite the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan to impose much tighter deadlines on water companies to deal with sewage spill.

Spencer is also coming under fire for casual racism after saying “some little man in China” could be listening into his own private conversation. As well as using a racist trope, the comments have been accused of downplaying the security concerns around the hacking of Liz Truss’s phone when she was foreign secretary.

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If you are concerned about the level of pollution in a river near you, you can join a local river campaign group or sign up to your local Rivers Trust group to help monitor and improve water quality, as well as raising awareness of the issue. 

The Surfers Against Sewage Safer Seas app allows you to report a pollution incident directly to your MP, and The Rivers Trust has a list of numbers you can call to report any pollution incidents you see.

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