SEWAGE: Charity surprise at dumping figures in Teesside waters
Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Image: Teesside Live
Figures showing the scale of sewage being dumped into Teesside’s waterways have been unveiled by a charity.
Outcry over images showing waste on the nation’s beaches has drawn the ire of campaigners in recent weeks.
Sea swimmers wore their bathers and goggles last month at a public meeting with Northumbrian Water, to voice their disgust at the pumping of raw human sewage into the sea off Saltburn.
Now analysis from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has offered a snapshot of dumping levels across North Yorkshire.
The charity looked at Environment Agency figures mapped by The Rivers Trust examining water company data from 2020.
Three Teesside constituencies compared favourably to their North Yorkshire counterparts.
Middlesbrough saw 192 raw sewage spills in 2020 lasting a total of 477 hours across 13 sites.
Redcar clocked 304 spills for a total of 775 hours while Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland recorded the highest of the three with 582 spills lasting a combined total of 3,810 hours.
Richmond had the highest number of sewage spills in the region with 4,812 lasting a total of a staggering 49,124 hours.
Jan Arger, from the CPRE North Yorkshire branch, said the figures for Teesside were surprising.
She said: “I do think Tees River Trust is doing the best to keep the river as clean as possible and they do some amazing work with their litter, trolley, and tree trunk picks.
“Considering, I’m from Teesside originally and considering we get seals going up as far as the barrage, we must be doing something right.”
She added: “It’s interesting when you think about how dirty the river used to be. I used to watch people down at the Gares surfing thinking about how brave they were when you thought about them falling in.
“When you looked at Coatham and the steaming tips, it’s quite surreal really.
“The figures do look really promising for Teesside – they could be a lot worse. It’s surprisingly good.”
There was Parliamentary jostling last week over the Government’s Environment Bill.
The House of Lords had proposed placing a legal duty on water firms to reduce untreated sewage discharges.
The amendment was rejected in favour of an alternative to “reduce adverse impacts” on the environment and public health.
Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, voted in favour of the Government amendment.
He said: “We all want to see further improvements in water quality across the country. This is an absolute priority for me as the MP for a coastal constituency.
“During wet weather, storm overflows release diluted waste water into rivers, preventing a combination of sewage and rain from overloading the sewers and backing up into homes and businesses. As climate change has led to greater rainfall, and water infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth, their use has increased in recent years.”
Mr Clarke said significant penalties had been handed out to water companies – adding the government would “hold under-performing companies to account” through the Storm Overflows Task Force.
He added: “The Taskforce brings together key stakeholders from the water industry, environmental NGOs, regulators, and Government in order to drive progress in reducing sewage discharges and has agreed a long-term goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows.
“The age of our Victorian sewerage system means a complete elimination of discharges from storm overflows would be extremely challenging.”
Costs of £150bn have been touted by the Storm Overflows Evidence Project to eliminate storm overflows.
But this figure has been contested by the CPRE – which has pointed to multi-billion pound dividends paid out by water firms.
Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said: “People are rightly shocked at the shameful frequency of sewage discharges and the damage it does to our most valued, delicate river habitats.
“I believe insufficient action has been taken to tighten regulation to stop water companies using discharges as a day-to-day measure when they were introduced for only the most extreme circumstances. I don’t want to see our beautiful coastlines contaminated by this appalling practice.
“I would like to see increased fines for water companies that routinely discharge raw sewage and annual parliamentary scrutiny of progress. I also wanted a specific definition of a progressive reduction and a timetable to achieve it.”
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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