Raw sewage is being routinely released into rivers in Birmingham by Severn Trent, local MP Preet Kaur Gill can reveal. 

In Edgbaston constituency, Severn Trent was responsible for 90 reported sewage overflows, which lasted for 144 hours. Across Birmingham, this figure increases to more 1,968 number of sewage overspills lasting 9,204 hours. 

This included the water company actively discharging sewage at Scotland Lodge in Bartley Green into Merritts Brook. There have also been multiple instances of storm overflows where sewage has been released at Stanley Road and Tennal Lane in Quinton affecting the Bourn Brook as well as occurring on Vicarage Road in Harborne. 

In the last year alone, raw sewage was discharged into UK rivers and seas over 400,000 times. There were 2,941 discharges into UK coastal bathing waters during the May-September bathing season alone, severely impacting coastal communities. The UK is ranked last in the EU for bathing water quality. None of our rivers are in a healthy condition, with none meeting good chemical standards and only 14% meeting good ecological standards. 

In the recent series of votes on the Environment Bill, Labour MPs, including Preet and all of the Birmingham Labour MPs, voted to end the routine discharge of raw sewage into rivers and seas.  

However, this practice is happening right across Birmingham with constituencies in places like Northfield being dramatically impacted by the discharge of raw sewage. Residents in Northfield have faced more than 220 instances of sewage spills lasting more than 2,500 hours. This accounts for more than a quarter of all sewage spills in Birmingham.  

However, Conservative MPs were whipped to vote against the cross-party amendment, including Northfield MP, Gary Sambrook who voted to stop the amendment from passing.  As a result of his and his Conservative colleagues’ actions, the amendment was defeated, and raw sewage can continue to be discharged into rivers as a result. 

The amendment to ban the release of raw sewage has now returned to the House of Lords and MPs are expected to vote on the proposal to end sewage discharges again in the coming weeks.  

Local MP Preet Kaur Gill said, “People in Edgbaston and right across the city of Birmingham want our local rivers to be free from raw sewage but human effluent is still being routinely discharged. It not only makes river waters unsafe to swim in for local people, but it also damages the precious river habitats for marine life, birds and mammals.  

“I am proud to have voted to stop this dreadful practice, one that’s killing our natural environment. But we now need more MPs from across the political divide to stand up for what is right and not to just blindly do as they’re told by a Government that is showing a total disregard for the planet.” 

Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Environment Secretary said, “People are right to be upset at the dreadful state of England’s rivers. Not one English river is in a healthy condition and there has been zero improvement since 2016. The Government is to blame for allowing water companies to vent raw sewage into our rivers and seas seemingly at will. 

“The Conservatives should urgently U-turn on their decision to block the Environment Bill amendment so that water companies are forced to reduce the amount of sewage they pump into our rivers and seas. 

ENDS 

 

Notes 

  • Not one English river is in a healthy condition, with 0% meeting good chemical standards and only 14% meeting good ecological standards – England has the worst river quality in Europe, with the percentage of waterways reaching good ecological standards unchanged since 2016.  
  • Recent research has found that unlawful discharge of sewage into waterways could be up to ten times more than the rate Environment Agency prosecutions suggests. 
  • From 2009- 2019, Environment Agency water quality samples fell by 45% and the number of sampling points by 40.6%, and the total budget for Environment Agency prosecutions has fallen by 58%. 
  • Research by The Guardian has found that raw sewage was discharged into rivers across England and Wales 200,000 times in 2019, for a total duration of 1.5 million hours.  This rose in 2020 to over 400,000 separate occasions dumping sewage into the environment. 
  • Only last week Southern Water were dumping sewage at 60 different locations along the south coast of England. Southern Water was recently fined an unprecedented £90m for deliberately venting sewage into the sea – after committing 168 previous offences. 
  • The Environment Agency currently relies on water companies to self-monitor discharges from combined sewer overflows. In these self-reports, the frequency or duration of overflow events is recorded but not the environmental impact, making management of waterways and enforcement of existing rules more difficult.