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Yorkshire Water: Raw sewage spilled into area rivers and sea more than 70,000 times in 2021 UK News

The company discharged untreated sewage from storm overflows 70,062 times, the second worst performance of 10 water companies in England and Wales, behind United Utilities. It also discharged sewage from overflows for a total of 406,131 hours, second worst behind Severn Trent which serves areas such as Derbyshire.

However, the company has the highest number of monitored overflows at 2,178.

The overflows are designed as a safety valve to ensure that sewage does not flow back into people’s homes when the system is flooded by heavy rains. But critics say the system has become so inadequate that it can be triggered with “pitiful” amounts of rainfall “sometimes as little as 2mm” and there has been a growing public backlash against the practice.

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Sir James Bevan

Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan said the agency is holding water companies accountable ‘on a scale never seen before’ and that companies ‘must act now to reduce their overflows to the minimum possible”.

The data was released as the government announced what it called the biggest overhaul of the sewage system since the 1990s.

He launched a consultation on setting a series of targets for water companies with the ultimate goal of stopping 80%, or 320,000 discharges into waterways from storm overflows, here 2050.

The Angling Trust welcomed the move, but said more urgency was needed. Campaigns manager Stuart Singleton-White said only 14% of rivers meet “good ecological status”, as judged by the Water Framework Directive, but not a single one meets good chemical status.

He said: “The government has all the tools it needs; new laws in the Environment Act, new obligations on Ofwat and overwhelming support from the public who want to see clean rivers and seas. I sincerely hope that the government will now move this file forward with much more urgency.

“Let’s not wait until 2050 to do the job.”

According to the proposals, by 2035 there will be 70% fewer discharges into bathing waters and by 2040 around 160,000 discharges will have ceased.

YW said it welcomed the “ambition” of the targets and would work with “key Yorkshire organisations” to help shape their response to the consultation.

Once confirmed, a spokesperson said the targets “will form an integral part of our business plan for the next five years and beyond”.

Completely separating the sewer and rainwater systems to eliminate the need for storm overflows would cost between £350bn and £600bn, the government says.

As well as driving up consumers’ water bills, it could cause major disruptions as they are unearthed.

Building additional storage to capture excess water during heavy rains would cost between £160 billion and £240 billion.

The government said it expected water companies to speed up the deadlines set out in the plan to reduce storm overflow discharges “where possible while avoiding unnecessary costs to consumers”.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-31 16:09:25

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