Shropshire Star

Minister admits amount of sewage in rivers is 'not acceptable' during Shrewsbury visit

The amount of sewage discharged into rivers is “not acceptable” according to the Environment Minister.

Environment Minister Therese Coffey on a visit to Shrewsbury

Therese Coffey MP was speaking on a visit to Shropshire, but defended the government’s record on the issue saying it has been addressing the problem and is bringing in more measures to tackle it.

It came as the Environment Agency published figures that showed a total of 301,091 spills in 2022 in England – an average of 824 per day. The figure was a 19 per cent decrease from the previous year but John Leyland, the EA’s executive director said this was “down to dry weather, not water company action”.

Asked about the latest figures Ms Coffey told the Shropshire Star the government is working to address the problem, but it cannot be fixed overnight. She said: “It is not good enough, it is not acceptable, that is why we are striving to make a difference – and last year we got in place this new storm overflow reduction plan. That in itself will take tens of millions of pounds and will take some time.”

Ms Coffey also said it had been a Conservative government that had started monitoring the amount of sewage that was being discharged into rivers.

She added: “We are not accepting poor performance, that is why we are turning the fines and penalties that can be levied and instead of that money going to the Treasury it is going back to local environmental projects.”

Environment Minister Therese Coffey with Shrewsbury & Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski MP, Clare Dinnis, Area Director for the Environment Agency, and Mark Barrow, County Chair of the River Severn Partnership

She continued: “We want rivers to be cleaner, we want to reduce pollution and we are actively tackling poor performance by water companies across the country.”

Ms Coffey was speaking during a visit to view Shrewsbury’s temporary flood barriers at Frankwell, where she met Environment Agency staff and was shown how the flood barriers are put in place.

She had been hosted on the visit by Shrewsbury and Atcham Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, who said they had also discussed the need for more measures to tackle flooding in the town – and along the River Severn.

Mr Kawczynski said the minister had agreed to meet with the River Severn Partnership and the Environment Agency to discuss the issue.

Protesters turned out for the visit of the Therese Coffey

Environmental campaigners had also gathered near Shrewsbury’s Beaconsfield Club where Ms Coffey had attended a Conservative evening event.

Asked why they had turned out to meet the minister one of the protesters, Jamie Russell, said: “Our rivers are drowning in sewage; our wildlife is in terminal decline; our ancient trees are being bulldozed for new roads and the government is dragging us towards environmental collapse.”

He added: “We’ve had 13 years of being led by turnips and we’re fed up.”