I know that ministers take the issue of sewage pollution very seriously, and recognise that there is more to be done on this matter. Under the Government’s Environment Bill, sewerage undertakers will be required to produce a Drainage and Sewerage Management Plan to actively address environmental risks, such as sewer overflows and their impact on water quality.
Ministers have also set up a new taskforce to set out clear proposals to address the volumes of sewage discharged into our rivers; and Rebecca Pow MP, a Minister in the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, recently met with water company CEOs and made clear to them that the volume of sewage discharged into rivers and other waterways must be reduced. I understand that water companies have already committed to a significant programme of improvements to the monitoring and management of storm overflows.
Storm overflows act as relief valves during times of heavy or prolonged rainfall to discharge excess sewage combined with rainwater to rivers or the sea, protecting properties from flooding and preventing sewage backing up into streets and homes. While storm overflows are a last resort in modern sewer design, the age of our sewerage systems means that their complete elimination is, unfortunately, not practicable or affordable.
I understand that the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill’s second reading has now been moved to January 15th. While most private members’ bills are unlikely to become law, this bill has certainly highlighted this important issue, and I will continue to keep track of its progress.