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River Health

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

Measures in the Environment Bill will help to address the problem of untreated sewage entering the rivers. On 9 July, Southern Water was fined £90 million—the largest sum yet for a water company—for persistent illegal discharge of raw sewage. Ministers have been clear with water industry chief executive officers on their companies’ legal duties. We are also tackling river pollution from poor farming practices. In addition to regulation and financial incentives, catchment-sensitive farming helps thousands of farmers to make water improvements.

Leighton sewage works pumped raw sewage into the River Ouzel for 149 hours in 2019, and in March this year waste water was pumped into the river for several weeks at Mardle Road. Volunteers Ruth Mundy and Liz Hooper report the absence of ducks, egrets and kingfishers, which were common in the past. Will the new director of water quality at the Environment Agency be able to achieve a rapid and sustained improvement?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting this issue. It is clearly unacceptable. I hope he will agree that we now have many measures in place; he has been involved in pressing for them. The storm overflows taskforce has been set up to deal with the sewage overflows, which, in our view, are used far too frequently. Much more monitoring is in place through the water companies. They have to publish a plan on this issue and the Government have to report back. We are really cracking down on the whole issue of water quality, which my hon. Friend is right to raise.