Shocking figures show that last year alone, the Tories allowed Severn Trent to dump 253 hours’ worth of raw sewage into Birmingham, Edgbaston’s natural environment
Last year, nearly 11 days’ worth of raw sewage was dumped into Edgbaston’s rivers and brooks, the Labour Party has revealed. Across the whole of Birmingham, nearly 2,000 spills were counted, dumping over six months’ worth of sewage into the city’s natural environment.
The Rivers Trust Interactive Map which displays constituency breakdowns of monitored storm overflows, shows that in 2021, raw sewage was discharged into Birmingham’s natural environment for a total duration of 4,627 hours. This equates to there having been a continuous flow of sewage taking place for over six months of the year, Labour Party analysis has found. 225 hours’ worth of raw sewage was dumped into the River Rea at the Pershore Road storm overflow in Edgbaston alone.
The map also points to 1,981 spills across Birmingham in 2021. This means that on average, there was a sewage spill event every 5 hours, a damning indictment of Tory failure to hold water bosses to account in polluting the areas in which people live and work.
A fortnight ago, the Labour Party found that that on average water companies in England and Wales are pumping raw sewage into our natural environment every two-and-a-half minutes, with areas such as beaches, playing fields and bathing waters having faced 1,076 years-worth of raw sewage over a six-year period.
This comes amid revelations last week, that prime ministerial hopeful Liz Truss was responsible for unleashing cuts of tens of millions of pounds to the Environment Agency, with Environment Agency data showing that the Tories presided over a doubling of water companies dumping raw sewage in subsequent years.
Specifically, during her time as Environment Secretary and as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Truss failed to hold a single meeting with a water company to discuss their performance of sewage dumping and oversaw the slashing of Environment Agency grant, by a quarter, which was dedicated to monitoring of water companies and cutting pollution in our waters.
Environment Agency sources pointed to staff having been moved away from environmental monitoring following Truss’ period at DEFRA, casting serious doubts over Truss’ competency on major issues facing her previous departments and judgement in understanding the consequences of her decisions.
Last year, Conservative MPs voted to allow water firms to continue sewage dumping, having blocked a Labour-backed amendment to the Environment Bill, that would have sought to progressively eliminate sewage dumping into our natural environment.
Gary Sambrook, the Conservative MP for Birmingham, Northfield, voted to allow water companies to carry on dumping sewage. 167 hours’ worth of untreated effluent was piped into waterways in his constituency last year.
Jim McMahon, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said:
“Conservative MPs who are busy Tippexing over their voting records must explain to the country why they voted to allow the scenes of sewage dumping that we’re seeing on the news.
“Families across the country should be able to just enjoy where they live, work or holiday, without having to worrying about encountering filthy sewage as a result of water firms being allowed to cut corners.
“Britain deserves better than a zombie Tory government up to its neck in raw sewage. A Labour government will use the levers of power to hold reckless water bosses to account and toughen regulations to prevent them from gaming the system.”
Preet Kaur Gill, Labour MP for Birmingham, Edgbaston, said:
“People in Edgbaston are rightly disgusted by scenes of raw sewage being piped into our rivers and waterways. This Conservative government’s incompetence is defiling our city’s beautiful brooks and rivers, and killing our natural environment.
“I am proud to have voted to eliminate this stomach-turning practice, but I am staggered that my neighbouring Conservative MP voted to let water firms carry on. With over six months’ worth of raw sewage dumped in Birmingham’s rivers and brooks last year, the Tories have some serious explaining to do.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Rivers Trust sewage map and ‘investigate’ constituency breakdowns:
2. Calculating days of spillage: No. of hours of spills divided by 24 hours.
3. Calculating months of spillage: No. of hours of spills divided by 730.
4. Huge increase in raw sewage released into UK waterways and sea, data reveals: https://news.sky.com/story/huge-increase-in-raw-sewage-released-into-uk-waterways-and-sea-data-reveals-12677730
5. Truss oversaw cut in funds to tackle water pollution, since when raw sewage discharge has risen: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/aug/22/liz-truss-environment-agency-cuts-sewage-water-pollution
6. Liz Truss failed to meet any water bosses over sewage dumping in two years in environment post: https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/uk-news/sewage-water-liz-truss-environment-b2154204.html
7. After Truss’s cuts, staff were moved away from environmental monitoring:
8. Concern grows as MPs vote against blocking water companies from discharging sewage into rivers: https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/mps-environment-bill-dump-sewage-b1944968.html
9. Campaigners for clean water said they were disappointed that what they viewed as a less stringent amendment had been approved: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/nov/08/move-to-avert-sewage-rebellion-in-commons-dismissed-as-too-weak
10. How did my MP vote on sewage? List of MPs who voted for and against dumping raw sewage into seas and rivers: https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/how-did-my-mp-vote-on-sewage-list-of-mps-who-voted-for-and-against-dumping-raw-sewage-into-seas-and-rivers-3433000