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Land Drainage: Storms

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 170727, tabled on 17 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Storm Overflows Taskforce's plans to eliminate harm from (a) Langstone Harbour and (b) other storm overflows.

Answered on

26 March 2021

Tackling the harm caused by sewer overflows is a top priority for Defra.

Nationally water companies have agreed to make real-time data on sewage discharges available at bathing sites all year round and are installing additional monitoring devices by 2023. Southern Water intends to meet this commitment ahead of the deadline.

Locally Environment Agency (EA) teams are assessing the latest data of discharges to Langstone Harbour and identifying any discharges that are not operating as they are intended. For any non-compliance they will take appropriate actions in line with the EA’s enforcement and prosecution policy and will continue to investigate and respond to any reported incidents associated with the operation of storm discharges in the area.

I also understand that the hon. Member met with the EA recently to discuss the reporting arrangements and controls relating to storm discharges into Langstone Harbour.

During periods of significant rainfall untreated sewage diluted by rainwater will discharge through storm overflows to avoid streets, premises and sewage treatment plants being flooded. Water companies are committed in the five-year business planning period (2020-25) to a significant programme of improvements to the monitoring and management of storm overflows at a cost of around £1.1 billion. This investment includes undertaking 800 investigations and 798 improvement schemes to provide environmental improvements by reducing spills from frequently spilling overflows.

The new Storm Overflows Taskforce - bringing together the Government, the water industry, regulators and environmental NGOs - has agreed to set a long-term goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows. The Taskforce is now working on plans to start making progress towards that goal, and has commissioned research to gather evidence on the costs, benefits and feasibility of different options.

Water companies are currently producing comprehensive Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans to assess the capacity of their wastewater networks. We are also taking steps through the Environment Bill to require water companies to produce such plans on a statutory basis. These plans will be another tool to help address the risks that storm overflows pose to the environment.