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Latest 04 April 2023

The sewage scandal – and what we’re doing about it

Maximillian Cabinet / Shutterstock

We’re supporting three legal challenges to protect our coastline and rivers from pollution.

The weight of public pressure has forced the Government to announce ‘new’ measures to try and get a grip on the sewage scandal blighting our country.

However, the reality is that the Government’s Plan for Water is a damp squib. It will only lead to a reduction of 10,000 sewage discharges each year. This is a drop in the ocean when you consider the latest Environment Agency figures revealing that water companies were responsible for over 300,000 sewage spills last year alone.

So given the Government isn’t fixing the issue of widespread sewage spills by private water companies, it begs the question – what can be done?

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We’re supporting several legal challenges to hold this Government and water companies to account and doing all we can to help bring this shocking practice to an end.

1)  Clean Waters- protecting our shores from sewage spills

We’re supporting a High Court challenge to force the Government to improve its Storm Overflows Discharges Reduction Plan – which currently allows water companies to continue to discharge huge amounts of raw sewage through storm overflows for the next three decades. We’ve brought this case with the Marine Conservation Society, Richard Haward’s Oysters and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm. 

The latest figures reveal that sewage was dumped over a period of 8,500 hours on England’s blue flag beaches in 2022. The Government’s plan fails to cover the majority of our coastal waters.

We believe that allowing this form of environmental vandalism to carry on for decades to come is unconscionable and unlawful.

If you are interested in supporting this challenge, you can do so here.

2) Sewage dumping in the Manchester Ship Canal

We are supporting further legal action brought by the Manchester Ship Canal Company against United Utilities to challenge the water company’s attempts to escape legal accountability for sewage dumping.

This dispute has been fought for years but, until Good Law Project and others intervened, no one was representing the interests of the public.

The case was heard in the Supreme Court at the beginning of March and we are awaiting the decision. If this case succeeds, it will become possible for individuals, landowners and businesses to sue and hold profit-obsessed water companies like United Utilities to account.

3) Protecting the River Wye from agricultural pollution

The River Wye, which flows across the border between England and Wales, is one of our most precious natural assets. But it is dying because of agricultural pollution. Run-off and slurry from intensive farming in Powys and Herefordshire is spilling into the river, degrading the habitats of a range of internationally important species.

The latest serious threat is from a new farming development on the banks of the River Dore, which is a tributary whose waters run into the River Wye. Good Law Project is supporting local campaigners to stop this from going ahead and to set a national precedent to raise the bar that must be reached before future new livestock developments can be approved. 

If you would like to support this challenge, you can do so here.