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  • by Karma Loveday

Ministers prioritise bathing and sensitive river sites in push to cut sewage pollution

Ministers last week reaffirmed their plans to prioritise bathing waters and sensitive sites as sewage discharges from storm overflows are tackled.


Defra’s parliamentary under secretary of state, Lord Benyon, stuck to this line in the Lords when he faced oral questions on requiring water companies to monitor the volume of sewage discharged into water courses and related matters.


Responding to the Duke of Wellington’s criticism that the draft storm overflow discharge reduction plan is unambitious and would reduce discharges over the next 18 years by only 40%, Lord Benyon said: "The target will be to concentrate on bathing waters and special environmental waterways, such as chalk streams. They will be the government’s absolute priority and by 2035, under our plans, we will have eliminated nearly all outflows into those waterways.”


Lord Benyon also said the government’s preferred policy was to monitor the impact of discharges on water quality upstream and downstream of overflows, rather than monitor volumes.


Meanwhile in the Commons, water minister, Rebecca Pow, was questioned on tackling untreated sewage discharges and said: "We also have to be mindful of the cost of this on water bills, but we are certainly tackling the worst areas first—bathing waters and protected sites.”


In a separate session, Fleur Anderson MP asked whether ministers intended to formulate a policy to ban the sale of wet wipes containing plastic. Pow said proposals would follow shortly once data from the recent call for evidence on plastic pollution had been studied.

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