Sewage in the sea

Legal case to stop sewage pollution: High Court grants hearing

2 minute read

In November, we joined a legal case against the UK Government for failing to address the deluge of sewage pollution being dumped on English shores. This week, the High Court has permitted a hearing for our case.

Following the mass dumping of untreated sewage into rivers and seas from so-called storm overflows, we hoped that the UK Government’s Storm Overflows Discharges Reduction Plan would include measures and offer solutions to reduce and prevent this pollution urgently. Sadly, it did not.

With the plan allowing water companies to continue dumping sewage into our rivers and coastal waters for another three decades, we felt that we had to act. After multiple attempts to highlight our concerns about the plan and the impact on our ocean, which yielded no result, we took the next step and joined a legal case.

A hearing for our case has been granted by the High Court, and will challenge the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, over her department’s plan.

We’re now one step closer to compelling the Government to re-write its Storm Overflows Reduction Plan, so that the ocean and its inhabitants really are protected from untreated sewage dumping.

Sandy Luk, CEO
CSO - Sewage in sea

Credit: Kate Wilson

Under the Storm Overflows Discharges Reduction Plan, published in August last year, water companies have until 2035 to reduce the amount of sewage they allow to pollute our bathing waters and areas of ecological importance, and until 2050 to stop dumping sewage elsewhere. These areas elsewhere are homes to vital ecosystems and an abundance of marine life, and include our vulnerable Marine Protected Areas.

We’re calling for the Government to consider the impact of untreated sewage – including the cocktail of chemicals and bacteria it contains - on our ocean and the thousands of species which live there.

We’re asking for it to improve its plan to stop sewage pollution, include stronger protections for coastal waters across the country, and bring forward the deadlines for water companies to act.

Sewage shutterstock_2135758211 Olga Pedan

Credit: Shutterstock | Olga Pedan

With sewage related pollution found on 73% of English beaches surveyed in last year’s Great British Beach Clean, and 1,651 storm overflows within 1km of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in England dumping sewage into the sea for a shocking 263,654 hours, our ocean and its inhabitants can’t afford to wait until 2035, let alone 2050.

The date for the hearing has yet to be decided, but when the time comes, we’ll be ready to fight for our ocean – it’s the least it deserves.

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