Sewage spills into the Rivers Parrett and Washford doubled in 2023 compared to the year before, statistics reveal. Sewage was dumped into the rivers for over 4,400 hours – including bathing water areas at Burnham Jetty and Blue Anchor West. Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Rachel Gilmour has looked at data published by the Environment Agency to reveal a shocking number of spills by Wessex Water – more than double the 1,995 hours of spills in 2022.

She also highlighted sewage spills by South West Water in the Exe, Barle and Culm which have tripled in 12 months – amounting to 750 full days of spills in just one year across the length of the three local waterways.

The spills recorded by Event Duration Monitors (EDMs) at storm overflows. According to Ofwat these so called ‘storm overflows’ are designed to act as relief valves when the sewerage system is at risk of being overwhelmed, such as during heavy downpours. As well as creating public concerns over river and quality, the storm overflows cause inevitable environmental damage.

Mrs Gilmour, who will be fighting in the Tiverton and Minehead constituency at the general election, said the data is a huge concern for the region’s wildlife and flora, and also raises questions about the legality of the spills.

“The blatant flouting of the rules and erosion of public trust reeks. This Conservative government voted against tougher action to stop the spills, and they’ll allow water companies to continue discharging sewage until 2050. It’s a national disgrace.

“The Liberal Democrats will take action on this and transform England’s water companies into public-benefit companies. We want to abolish Ofwat and replace it with a new regulator which has effective powers to intervene. We also want to introduce a sewage tax to fund the clean-up of the most polluted lakes, rivers and coastlines.”

Water companies that are found to have breached the rules by spilling on dry days or failing to meet other conditions can be fined or prosecuted.

The Environment Agency’s Spill Frequency Portal collates readings from the EDMs, and is the primary source of data on the performance of storm overflows. In 2023 the various water companies completed the installation of spill monitors at every storm overflow in England.


Caption: Parliamentary candidate Rachel Gilmour by the River Exe close to where it meets the Barle

Data spreadsheet available on request.

Promoted by David Wulff on behalf of Rachel Gilmour (Liberal Democrats) both at 8-9 Mountbatten Road, Tiverton, EX16 6SW.

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