join donate discuss

Outrage at County Durham MPs’ raw sewage vote

County Durham’s three Conservative MPs have voted down an amendment to the Environment Bill which would have made it illegal for water companies to discharge raw sewage into our rivers and coastal waters.

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison, North West Durham MP Richard Holden, and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell, all voted with the Government to defeat the amendment.

There was fury and outrage at the vote. The backlash on social media and elsewhere has now forced the Government into a U-turn.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the Environment Bill "will be further strengthened with an amendment that will see a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows".

County Durham Green Party co-ordinator Rupert Friederichsen has been on the front line of the battle to improve local water quality.

His report to City of Durham Parish Council (of which he is a member) on water quality of the River Wear will be used as the basis for discussions with Durham County Council as to how the two organisations can work together to facilitate improvements.

His report found that the ecological status of the Wear as it flows through Durham rates only as ‘moderate’ with disturbing signs that the water quality is worsening.

The Parish Council’s Environment Committee is seeking two short term actions.

It has written to Northumbrian Water requesting information regarding the exact scale of its polluting impact, a report on its mitigation in the past, and what plans are in place to reduce their pollution immediately. The Council plans to reiterate its call for nets to prevent waste entering the river through sewage dischargers, and is offering to pay for nets to be installed across the Parish area.

The Committee has also written to the Environment Agency asking for clarification on what it is doing to improve the water quality of the river Wear.

Rupert said: "The quality of our waters is of vital ecological importance. The Government’s decision to vote against the Lords amendment to make it a legal duty for water companies to address their own pollution of our rivers and coastal waters was a massive own goal and reflects badly on its attitude to the environment.

"In the meantime, the Greens in Durham are doing everything they can to ensure that water quality in our rivers is as good as it can be.”