Shocking figures show that last year alone, the Tories allowed Northumbria Water to dump 20 months worth of raw sewage into the City of Durham’s rivers. Last year, 615 days’ worth of raw sewage was dumped into rivers across the City of Durham constituency including the Rivers Wear, Browney and Deerness, the Labour Party has revealed.
The Rivers Trust interactive map which displays constituency breakdowns of monitored storm overflows, shows that in 2021, raw sewage was discharged into the City of Durham’s natural environment for a duration of 14,775 hours. This equates to there having been a continuous flow of sewage taking place for 20 months of the year.
Polluting the areas where we live, work and holiday
Labour Party analysis also shows that on average in 2021, there were seven sewage spills per day in the City of Durham. This is a damning indictment of Tory failure to hold water bosses to account in polluting the areas in which people live, work and holiday.
A fortnight ago, the Labour Party found that on average water companies in England and Wales are pumping raw sewage into our natural environment every two-and-a-half minutes, with areas such as beaches, playing fields and bathing waters having faced 1,076 years-worth of raw sewage over a six-year period.
This comes amid revelations last week, that prime ministerial hopeful Liz Truss was responsible for unleashing cuts of tens of millions of pounds to the Environment Agency, with Environment Agency data showing that the Conservatives presided over a doubling of water companies dumping raw sewage in subsequent years.
Specifically, during her time as Environment Secretary and as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Truss failed to hold a single meeting with a water company to discuss their performance of sewage dumping. She also oversaw the slashing of Environment Agency grant, by a quarter, which was dedicated to monitoring of water companies and cutting pollution in our waters.
Environment Agency sources pointed to staff having been moved away from environmental monitoring following Truss’s period at Defra, casting serious doubts over her competency on major issues facing her previous departments and judgement in understanding the consequences of her decisions.
Last year, Conservative MPs voted to allow water firms to continue sewage dumping, having blocked a Labour-backed amendment to the Environment Bill, that would have sought to progressively eliminate sewage dumping into our natural environment.
Mary Kelly Foy MP for the City of Durham said:
“After three decades of failed privatisation of water, it’s clear that Northumbria Water and its Hong Kong based billionaire owner stinks. Durham is famed for its breathtakingly beautiful scenery as the River Wear winds beneath the cathedral and castle, flowing through the heart of our world heritage site. However, this data makes clear that under the Conservatives watch this vital public service has been allowed to put private profits before pollution. While sewage has flowed into our precious rivers, nearly £2bn of dividends have simultaneously flowed into the hands of Hong Kong Billionaire Li Ka-shing and his family since purchasing Northumbria Water in 2011. While billionaires profit abroad, the public are left with pollution in our rivers and waterways. Enough is enough, if private water companies refuse to clean up their act then it is common sense that the public should take back ownership of such vital public services.”
Jim McMahon, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said:
“Conservative MPs who are busy tippexing over their voting records must explain to the country why they voted to allow the scenes of sewage dumping that we’re seeing on the news.
“Families across the country should be able to just enjoy where they live, work or holiday, without having to worry about encountering filthy sewage as a result of water firms being allowed to cut corners.
“Britain deserves better than a zombie Tory government up to its neck in raw sewage. A Labour government will use the levers of power to hold reckless water bosses to account and toughen regulations to prevent them from gaming the system.”