Have your say on sewage spills

The South East Rivers Trust is calling on its supporters to respond to the Government’s consultation on sewage spills – and ask for more urgency to tackle the issue.

The Government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan survey was launched on 31st March, with a deadline to respond by 12th May.

We’ve put together this short news piece to support you in understanding the issue and how your response to the consultation could help instigate the change we need.

The shocking spillage statistics

The Rivers Trust has compiled a sewage map, using the Environment Agency’s freshly released statistics about sewage overflows from 2021.

Across England, a total of 455,410 spills were counted, running for a total of 3,381,163 hours from 14,159 overflows.

Using the map to crunch the numbers for the 12 SERT catchments, we found there were 10,793 spills for a total of 82,454 hours from 536 monitored storm overflows.

The Wandle, Beverley Brook and Hogsmill catchments combined had a total of 538 spills, totalling 2,057 hours from 28 overflows.

Meanwhile, the Medway alone had 4,221 spills, running for 28,218 hours, from 231 storm overflows.

Sewage overflow spills in the SERT area using the Rivers Trust interactive map

Target dates take too long

As we said when the consultation was released, we agree with the Rivers Trust that the target dates are not soon enough.

For example, the current Government plan asks water companies to eliminate storm overflows affecting England’s most important protected sites by 2035. It suggests a target of 70% fewer discharges into bathing waters by the same date and cutting about 40% of the total discharges into rivers by 2040, then 80% by 2050.

The Rivers Trust movement feels this fails to set the pace our rivers so desperately need to be clean, for the benefit of wildlife and communities.

A sewage outfall © South East Rivers Trust

Have your say

If you agree with us and want to see positive change faster for rivers, we would ask you to respond to the new consultation before the 12th May.

We suggest you answer “strongly disagree” to many of the sections about the ambitions and timescales of the survey – showing you do not agree that these targets are good enough.

At the end of the consultation, you also have the chance to comment as to why you gave your survey choices.

We would like you to consider using or adapting some or all of the points below.

Now it is over to you. Read the suggested responses below and fill in the consultation here.

Why not look up your local river on the Rivers Trust’s map and add your area’s statistics when responding to the comment section on the survey?

A storm overflow going into a river

Pointers to consider

  • The plan to address sewage spills into rivers is essential, but its timeframes stretch too far into the years ahead.
  • As a supporter of river restoration work, I want to give our native wildlife a chance to recover and thrive and to see them full of life.
  • I want people to be able to swim, paddle, fish and play in our rivers without risk of contracting hepatitis, e-coli, gastroenteritis and other unpleasant diseases.
  • The plan lacks the necessary ambition to save our rivers as we battle the twin problems of climate change and a growing population, which put further pressure on already stressed water sources. The plan only aims to improve 14% of overflows by 2030 and many of the dates continue to 2050. Aiming to tackle only 52% of overflows by 2040 is too slow. Rivers need protecting now, not in periods up to 30 years’ time.
  • A realistic plan to protect our rivers from storm overflow sewage can be put together quicker than the timescales suggested. According to the Rivers Trust, one water company (United Utilities) has already committed to reducing spills by a third by 2025. Anglian Water has committed to reducing all discharges to less than 20 per CSO per year by 2025.
A polluted river