UK minister defends plan to stop sewage spillover
Britain’s environment minister on Saturday defended government plans to tackle sewage releases into rivers and sea, after opposition parties and environmentalists slammed the measures as insufficient and costly for consumers.
Recent discharges of sewage into popular river and sea bathing areas have prompted widespread horror among the public, as well as alarm over waters shared with the EU.
The European Commission said Thursday it will soon reply to complaints received from MEPs about British sewage allegedly being poured into waters shared with the EU.
The UK government on Friday announced the “toughest targets ever” for water companies, requiring them to invest £56 billion ($66 billion) over 25 years to improve infrastructure such as storm overflows.
Some of that cost will be passed onto customers through bills.
Storm channels are conduits used during heavy rain to prevent sewers becoming overfull. Some untreated waste water goes directly into watercourses or the sea.
George Eustice, the environment secretary, told BBC radio that the current government was the first to “really grip” the problems connected to the “Victorian sewage infrastructure”.
“You could argue that governments down the decades should have prioritised this, but this government — with me as Secretary of State, and Boris Johnson as Prime Minister — is the first government to actually tackle this problem,” Eustice said.
Opposition parties and experts have criticised the plans, however.
The Rivers Trust, a charity that protects waterways, said the plan was “too little, too late”.
Environment spokesman for the Liberal Democratic Party, Tim Farron, called it a “cruel joke”, saying water companies were rewarding chief executives and shareholders while “we swim in sewage”.