The government’s new plan to clamp down on sewage discharge by 2050 has been called a ‘cruel joke’ and ‘license to pump sewage onto our beaches’.
The Department for the Environment (DEFRA) said on Friday that water companies will need to provide £56billion in capital investment over the next 25 years to prevent untreated sewage from flowing into seas and rivers. UK rivers.
There have been growing calls to strip water company bosses of their multi-million pound bonuses after outrage over how much sewage is pumped into the sea.
Under the plan, companies will have until 2035 to improve their management of all sewage overflows discharging next to bathing waters, and improve 75% of overflows from wilderness sites. By 2050, this will apply to all waterways.
The government said it was introducing the ‘toughest targets ever’ to tackle sewage spills.
But the Lib Dems called the plan a “cruel joke” and claimed it would result in 325,000 sewage dumps a year by 2030.
Party environmental spokesman Tim Farron said: “This government plan is a license to pump sewage onto our beaches and into our precious rivers and lakes.
“By the time these flimsy goals come into effect, our beaches will have been filled with filthy sewage, more otters will be poisoned and our children will continue to swim in dangerous waters.”
The party claimed the plan would see taxpayers largely paying for the improvements, although water company bosses have won huge bonuses in recent years.
A previous party analysis found that the average bonus for water company executives rose by a fifth (18%) in the last year and that the average annual bonus for water company executives now stands at 670,000 £.
The document released by DEFRA says there will be no impact on the bill until 2025, but it is estimated that annual bills over the whole period to 2050 will eventually rise by £42 from current prices .
It comes at a time when households are already feeling the crunch in energy bills which are set to soar for millions in October following a record 80% price cap increase.
“It all stinks”
Mr Farron criticized the decision not to ban bonuses for the water company’s chief executive.
“While they’re rolling in cash, we’re swimming in sewers. It all stinks,” he said.
“The day this cost of living crisis reached catastrophic levels, the government hid this news. They took the concept of ‘take out the trash’ to a whole new level.”
Ministers have faced growing calls to crack down on water companies for failing to invest in the UK’s outdated water infrastructure.
Dozen of Pollution Warnings were issued this week for beaches and bathing spots in England and Wales following heavy rains which overwhelmed the sewage system.
Untreated sewage was spotted pouring into the sea near Bexhill, East Sussex, on Wednesday, while French MPs on Thursday accused the UK of endangering the livelihoods and public health of fishermen by discharging wastewater into the English Channel.
The government has said water companies will need to meet a number of targets so that discharges only occur when there are exceptionally heavy rains and when there is no immediate negative impact on water. local environment.
DEFRA said companies that fail to meet its targets will have to reimburse customers or face fines, stressing that companies cannot profit from environmental damage.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the UK government was “the first government to take action to end the environmental damage caused by sewage spills”.
He said: “We will require water companies to protect everyone who uses our water for recreation and to ensure that storm surges do not threaten the environment.
“Water companies will need to invest to stop unacceptable sewage discharges so that our rivers and coasts can be better protected than ever.”
Huge increase in raw sewage discharged into UK waterways
Truss Environment Agency budget cuts led to ‘doubling of sewage discharges’
“The Conservatives started writing fiction”
However, Labor accused the government of “writing fiction”.
Jim McMahon, Shadow Labor Secretary of State for the Environment, said based on last year’s figures, ‘weak improvement targets’ will result in 4.8 million additional sewage discharges to the UK by 2035.
‘Britain deserves better than a zombie Tory government that is happy that our country is being treated like an open sewer,’ he said.
“Labour will use the levers of power to hold reckless water bosses to legal and financial accountability, and toughen regulations to stop them playing games with the system.”
DEFRA said it would review its plan in 2027 to assess “where we can go further”.