Rivers Trust map showing sewer storm overflows
Rivers Trust map showing sewer storm overflows

Raw sewage is being routinely released into rivers in Greater Manchester by United Utilities, local MP Afzal Khan can reveal.

In Manchester Gorton, United Utilities was responsible for 187 reported sewage overflows, which each lasted on average for 278 hours.

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 voted to end the routine discharge of raw sewage into rivers and seas. Conservative MPs were whipped to vote against the cross-party amendment tabled by the Duke of Wellington in the House of Lords. 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 Afzal Khan said: “People in Manchester Gorton want our local water ways to be free from raw sewage, but human effluent is still routinely discharged into our seas and rivers. 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 against dumping raw sewage into seas and rivers.”

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. The millions of pounds which go to shareholders do nothing to help with cleaning up our rivers and seas.

“The Tories should learn from the record and experience of the Welsh Labour government who have been able to require sustainable drainage systems to reduce the load on sewage systems and make investing to tackle future challenges a top priority.”

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