Sewage discharged in Yorkshire’s coastal communities for thousands of hours
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Shadow Environment Secretary Jim McMahon has highlighted Environment Agency figures which show 6,797 discharges occurred in 2022, lasting for a combined total of 26,908 hours.
They were recorded in Beverley and Holderness (808 discharges), East Yorkshire (935), Scarborough and Whitby (1,365) and Thirsk and Malton (3,689).
Water companies such as Yorkshire Water are permitted to discharge sewage through thousands of storm overflows, to prevent sewage systems from becoming overloaded and backing up into homes following heavy rain.
“That the Tories have allowed villages, towns, and cities across the country to be treated as open sewers shows that they have no respect for places where people live, work and holiday,” said Mr McMahon.
“Communities in Yorkshire should be able to just enjoy the place where they live without having to worrying about encountering filthy raw sewage.”
He said Labour will impose mandatory monitoring on all sewage outlets, set ambitious target to reduce discharges and hold water bosses to account with tougher fines, if the party wins the next General Election.
Last week, the Environment Agency revealed England’s 10 water companies recorded 301,091 discharges through storm overflows in 2022 – an average of 824 a day.
That is down from 372,533 in 2021, but the agency said the reduction was “largely down to dry weather, not water company action”.
The number of discharges recorded by Yorkshire Water dropped by 22 per cent, from 70,062 to 54,273, and the overall duration of discharges fell from 406,131 hours to 232,054 hours.
Around 91 per cent of storm overflows in England are monitored, but the Environment Agency has given water companies until the end of this year to fit monitors on all of them.
A senior Conservative Party source said: “They (Labour) did nothing to monitor water quality when they were in government and are ignoring failures where they are in charge – sewage is being dumped more frequently in Wales under Labour.
“It was a Conservative government that introduced widespread monitoring of storm overflows, tougher enforcement, and the largest infrastructure programme in water company history.”
According to a Government estimate, it would cost between £350bn and £600bn to eliminate sewage discharges, as water companies would need to completely separate the sewage and rainwater systems that homes and businesses across the country use.
The Government said there would need to be a significant increase in bills and widespread disruption.
In a bid to reduce discharges, Ministers have launched The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which sets water companies strict targets and requires them to invest £56bn in upgrading their networks.
A Yorkshire Water spokesman said: “In 2022, our figures show a reduction in the number of discharges, the duration of those discharges, the average number of discharges per overflow storm overflows and indicate overflows operated for 1.3 per cent of total operational hours.
“Prolonged or heavy rain can lead to discharges from multiple overflows in a town or city at the same time, as the wastewater systems were designed to protect homes, businesses and streets from flooding.”
He added: “While 2022’s overflow figures show improvement, we understand they happen more than our customers would like, and we are determined to tackle this issue.
“Tackling overflows, which were designed into the system as a relief valve, is a priority for us, but it is also a significant task. We know replumbing the whole of Yorkshire is not a quick fix as it would be both significantly disruptive and costly to customers and we need to ensure water bills remain affordable.”