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Case Update

Deadline looms for new Environment Secretary to respond to our legal challenge against sewage dumping

11th November 2022

Rishi Sunak has performed a screeching u-turn to attend COP27.

Like many people, we are frightened by what the future holds. We worry about what the chasm between rhetoric and action means for our children and grandchildren. We intend to do what we can to close it, capitalising on our litigation success improving Government’s Energy National Policy Statement and Zero Strategy.

We are now also challenging the Government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which gives water firms until 2050 to invest in and improve our sewers to prevent them from overflowing into our waterways and coastlines.

We believe that giving the green light to routine sewage discharges for decades to come is not only dangerous, but unlawful.

This is why we have launched legal action, alongside Essex seafood business Richard Haward’s Oysters and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm, to compel the Government to rewrite its plan and significantly bring forward the deadlines it has given to water companies to take decisive action.

This issue must be at the top of the latest Environment Secretary’s intray. Having served as a Minister responsible for water quality in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) between 2016 and 2019  – we expect Thérèse Coffey to be well acquainted with the catastrophic implications of sewage dumping.

Thérèse Coffey is also the MP for Suffolk Coastal, where this is happening right under her nose. Last year alone, the water supplier in her constituency, Anglian Water, was responsible for over 21,000 sewage spills, over a duration of 194,000 hours.

But what doesn’t give us much hope is that in October 2021, Coffey voted to reject stronger regulation over water companies discharging sewage.

So, if the Environment Secretary doesn’t agree that much tougher measures are needed to make water companies urgently clean up their act, we will continue down the legal route.

We will find out either way in a week’s time as DEFRA has told us it will respond to our Pre-Action letter by 15th November.

Good Law Project recently teamed-up with Friends of the Earth and Client Earth to successfully force the Government to rewrite their threadbare net zero strategy. And we hope we can win again.

But to do this, we need your support.

If you are able to, please donate to our case and protect our rivers, coastal waters and waterways for generations to come, please follow this link.

UPDATE: The Secretary of State has now responded to our Pre-Action Protocol letter. We will shortly be providing further updates. 


This article is part of our Clean Waters case

A deluge of untreated sewage is being discharged by water companies into our rivers and along our coastlines. But the Government is failing to face up to the scale of the problem. This is why we have launched legal action alongside Marine Conservation Society, Richard Haward’s Oysters and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm, to demand action.

See more about this case