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UK sewage discharge slammed

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-26 09:25
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Lawmakers in France want legal action on issue but London denies wrongdoing

Three French members of the European Parliament have called for legal action against the United Kingdom, accusing it of risking health and marine life by pumping raw sewage into the waters of the English Channel and the North Sea.

In a joint letter sent to the European Commission on Wednesday, Pierre Karleskind, Nathalie Loiseau, and Stephanie Yon-Courtin, all members of President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche party, said the UK was ignoring its environmental commitments set out in EU legislation, reported the Agence France-Presse.

The UK's Environment Agency last week issued pollution warnings to beachgoers across England and Wales, after it found heavy rain had led to sewage overflow being diverted into rivers and the sea, reported the BBC, adding that British water companies have said they are investing in solving the problem.

"Since its exit from the European Union, the UK has ignored environmental requirements when it comes to the quality of its water," the politicians' letter said. "However, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and a party to the trade and cooperation deal (with the EU), the UK has committed to protecting the seas which surround it and which we share."

Figures released by the UK agency, following a freedom of information request by the Labour Party, show that sewage has been pumped into the environment in England and Wales more than a million times in the past five years, reported The Independent newspaper. It noted that the data revealed that, on average, a discharge lasted for more than seven hours.

The UK agency said that due to the country being in drought conditions recently, land has become less able to absorb heavy rainfall, meaning larger quantities of sewage reach drainage channels.

It noted that when this happens, sewage companies are allowed to dump so-called storm overflows into rivers and the sea to prevent flash floods in some areas, though this is supposed to be only excess rainwater.

The UK government's Department for Environment, Food &Rural Affairs denied the French politicians' accusations. In a statement, it said: "It is simply not true that we have exempted ourselves of strict targets on water quality. The Environment Act has made our laws even stronger on water quality than when we were in the EU, from targets to tackle nutrient pollution to new powers to tackle harmful substances in our waters.

"We have also made it law for water companies to reduce the frequency and volume of discharges from storm overflows and made it law for water companies to install new monitors to report in real time any sewage discharges in their area."

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