Shropshire Star

Call for action over sewage being dumped in Shropshire's rivers

Calls are being made for Shropshire Council to help clean up the county’s rivers by putting pressure on Severn Trent to mitigate the impact of sewage pollution.

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Up Sewage Creek campaigners unhappy about sewage being discharged into the River Severn

A motion to be tabled at a meeting of the full council next week would see the council pledge to work with the Environment Agency and the water company to establish what impact discharges of both sewage and farm waste are having on waterways.

Councillor Kate Halliday, who has put forward the motion on behalf of the council’s Labour group, said one of the main problems was the use of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in outdated drainage systems.

CSOs carry both rainwater and domestic waste, but become overwhelmed in periods of heavy downpour which causes them to discharge their contents – including untreated human waste, cleaning products, wipes and sanitary products – into rivers.

The motion raises concern about the impact of pollution on county rivers such as the River Severn

Councillor Halliday said: “Clean, healthy rivers are essential to Shropshire’s prosperity and wellbeing.

“In recent years the water quality has deteriorated for a variety of reasons but the chief contributor is the frequent and intermittent discharges of sewage when it rains.

“These CSOs have contributed to the deterioration of water quality and biodiversity. Fish stocks have reduced by 60 per cent in the last 10 years.

“Water firms discharged raw sewage into English waters 400,000 times last year, an increase of 27 per cent on the previous year.”

Councillor Halliday said the Environment Act, which passed into law in November last year, was a positive step as it sets new requirements for water firms to reduce the impact of discharges, as well as monitoring and reporting obligations.

But she added: “It does not give water companies a timetable to invest and update the sewage system, and there remains no legal duty on water companies not to release sewage into our waterways.

“It is therefore important that Shropshire Council plays an active role in holding key partners to account.”

If it wins the support of a majority of councillors, the motion will see the council set up a dedicated group to look into the issue and meet representatives of the Environment Agency and Severn Trent.

The council would also call on Severn Trent to increase funding and provide timescales for mitigating the effect of sewage and other pollutants being discharged into Shropshire’s rivers, and map the additional impact expected from future house building.

The motion says the council should consider using money secured from developers in the form of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) to invest in schemes to “to end the discharge of sewerage and other pollutants into our rivers”.

The motion will go before the full council at a meeting next Thursday, January 13.

Pressure has been mounting in recent months from local campaign group Up Sewage Creek, which staged a protest in Shrewsbury in November to highlight the issue, and organisations including Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

The charity has warned that the continued dumping of untreated sewage into the Severn in Shrewsbury is causing lasting damage to the health of the river.

According to data published by the Rivers Trust, the CSOs in Shrewsbury alone discharged more than 2,000 times in 2020 for a total of more than 25,000 hours.

However Severn Trent argues the CSOs are vital in order to prevent flooding during periods of heavy rainfall.