GOSPORT MP Dame Caroline Dinenage has raised the concerns of angry constituents in a debate about sewage discharges.
And she urged the Conservative Minister responsible for protecting polluted rivers and beaches to speed up improvement targets and increase water testing year-round.
The Tory MP welcomed the news that illegal discharges would have a 1,000-fold increase in fines, from £250,000 to £250 million. She also acknowledged that monitoring of sewage discharges had gone up from 5% in 2016 to 90% today.
However, she urged the government to set more ambitious targets for improving infrastructure and reducing discharges, and spoke of the need to introduce year-round water quality testing, in contrast to current regulations requiring testing to occur between May and September only.
Dame Caroline told the Commons: “In Gosport, we regularly experience sewage outflows around our beaches, and that doesn’t always coincide with heavy rainfall.
“The Environment Agency is only funded to deliver the requirements of the bathing water regulations, to test the waters, between May and September. Therefore, if discharges occur in the winter months the water quality isn’t known.
“Our coastal ecology is impacted all year round, people use the water all year round. Can the government please tell me what thought has been given to asking the Environment Agency, and funding the Environment Agency, to check the waters all year round?”
In reply, Government Minister Trudy Harrison said: “The Secretary of State made our commitment to tackling sewage discharges absolutely clear on his very first day in office. He held a call with water companies’ chief executives, and we are now working with them to explore the acceleration of infrastructure projects.
“Water companies are investing £3.1 billion to deliver the 800 storm overflow improvements across England by 2025, but if we can go further and faster we will. The Secretary of State and myself are challenging those water companies to come up with acceleration plans to clean our water system and ensure we have the infrastructure and the supply for the future.
“We have also recently announced that we will bring forward plans to increase the amount that the Environment Agency can directly fine water companies that pollute the environment by a thousand-fold, from £250,000 up to £250 million.”
After the debate, Dame Caroline told journalists: “I am glad that this debate was granted to highlight to the Minister the impact that sewage discharge is having on constituents.
“I regularly have emails in my inbox from constituents who have fallen ill from exposure to dirty seawater. I am therefore pleased to see the government is taking action, with comments from the Minister regarding an acceleration plan, and fines increasing for illegal discharges over 1000 times to £250 million.
“This is, at its core, an infrastructure problem. As such, there is no quick fix. However, more ambitious targets are needed to monitor, test the water quality and reduce the levels of sewage discharges into our waters.”
PICTURED BY UK PARLIAMENT: Dinenage addresses House of Commons debate in famous chamber.