One BIG step closer to clean seas
2 minute read
Our data and analysis have forced the Government to take another look at its plan for Storm Overflows, just weeks before we take it to court.
We’ve been campaigning to reduce sewage pollution for decades. So, the news that Defra has launched a consultation on extending its plan for stormwater (sewage) overflows for England is certainly cause for celebration. More so because the consultation was prompted by the data and analysis we provided as evidence for our upcoming court case.
In November last year, having done everything we could to influence Defra’s Stormwater Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, we took the momentous step of taking the UK Government to court to compel it to improve the Plan, together with Richard Haward’s Oysters and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm.
Credit: Natasha Ewins
On Monday, Defra launched a consultation to review its Plan – just weeks before the case is to be heard in the High Court on 4th – 6th July.
Defra’s Plan is all about reducing the number of sewage ‘spills’ through stormwater overflows. Sewage that enters our seas is not just disgusting, it’s a breeding ground of viruses and bacteria, and contains harmful chemicals.
On a recent holiday, I was thrilled to be able to see a family of four orcas, but the last time the family had a calf was in 2001. In Scotland's West Coast Community of orcas, Lulu, the last recorded female in that community was washed ashore dead in 2016 – the toxicity levels in Lulu’s body were over 100 times safe limits. For people and wildlife, we must ensure sewage dumping becomes a thing of the past.
Our evidence for the court case was so compelling that the Government has now decided to consult on amending its Plan, just weeks before facing us in court. This is a huge victory for our seas. Public support for our case and for action on sewage pollution is urgent, loud and – justifiably – angry. Together, we – including our members and supporters – expect Defra to act on our arguments in the case.
Public support for our case and for action on sewage pollution is urgent, loud and – justifiably – angry. Together, we – including our members and supporters – expect Defra to act on our arguments in the case.
We will do everything we can to work with the UK Government on this. We will hold it to account to urgently deliver a revised Plan that protects coastal and estuarine waters from spills from the 600 storm overflows that have, so far, not been covered by the Plan. We want to see priority action in relation to spills near all marine protected areas, and ways to monitor ecological harm.
What the consultation means for our case
Our case, which is supported and funded by the Good Law Project, will continue. We will still be fighting for our right to clean seas – a right that we should all have.
The case seeks to establish a new take on an ancient common law approach, the Public Trust Doctrine. This Doctrine could help us insist that the Government honours its duty to safeguard our public right to enjoy and benefit from healthy seas – for current and future generations.
If achieved, this could be truly revolutionary and help force the UK Government to hold water companies to account. Not just for storm overflows but far beyond that: for the repeated, damaging, not-so-emergency ‘emergency’ discharges of raw, undiluted sewage from sewage treatment works, as well as damaging chemical pollution that is poisoning our waters, already seriously impacting orca populations across the globe, and that could make the sea unliveable if it doesn’t stop.