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Sewage: Seas and Oceans

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 151826, tabled on 9 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, pursuant to the Answer of 2 February to Question 141594 on Sewage, what assessment has he made of the implications of going beyond providing more and better information to reduce frequency and harm of discharges from storm overflows, particularly to offshore public water bodies; and what plans are in place to reduce those discharges.

Answered on

17 February 2021

I met water company CEOs last year and made clear that the volume of sewage discharged into rivers and other waterways in extreme weather must be reduced. To achieve this, our new Storm Overflows Taskforce has been established, bringing together representatives from the Government, the water industry, regulators and environmental Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to set out clear proposals to address the harm and frequency of sewage discharged into our rivers and other waterways from storm overflows. As announced on 22 January, this Taskforce has agreed a long-term goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows.

This Taskforce has commissioned a research project to gather a comprehensive evidence base about the costs, benefits and feasibility of different options. This research project is due to be completed in the spring.

We are also taking key steps through the Environment Bill by requiring sewerage undertakers to produce Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans on a statutory basis. Plans will fully assess network capacity, and set out the measures undertakers plan to take to develop their drainage and sewerage systems. The plans aim to deliver more actions to help sewerage companies better address the risks that some sewerage assets, such as storm overflows, may pose to the environment. Undertakers started developing plans on a non-statutory basis in 2018.

We have introduced the requirement for at least one legally binding, water target in the Environment Bill. This target will complement existing regulations and legislation, moving us closer to achieving our goal of clean and plentiful water set out in Defra’s 25 Year Environmental Plan.