Lack of data on raw sewage ‘scares people’ out of bathing waters, MPs told

A lack of data on raw sewage in bathing waters “scares people out of the water”, MPs have heard.

Introducing the Bathing Waters (Monitoring and Reporting) Bill using a Ten Minute Rule motion in the Commons, Conservative MP Selaine Saxby said she was “proud” of work the Government had done to increase the monitoring of storm overflows.

The member for North Devon further claimed a lack of clarity on the definition of raw sewage, and data on the proportion of raw sewage in bathing water was acting as a deterrent on people swimming in safe bodies of water.

“This Bill seeks to expedite the testing of what is in an overflow pipe, but also to define what is and what is not raw sewage.

“Despite asking numerous questions of Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs), I am still unable to explain to anyone how an overflow pipe that is at least 95% rainwater is still able to be defined as raw sewage.

Summer weather Aug 5th 2018
People in the sea at Woolacombe Beach in North Devon (Ben Birchall/PA)

“Clearly, the more water, the more diluted.”

Ms Saxby said there was “misinformation” on the safety of water in the aftermath of a storm overflow event.

She told MPs: “I do think we need to follow the science and recognise in constituencies like mine, less than 1% of the water pollution we deal with is related to human sewage.

Ms Saxby called for “better data” as she described beaches in her constituency as some of the “cleanest in the world”.

She said: “Reducing storm overflows is vital and this Government is demanding that of water companies, but just knowing the pipe has discharged when it has been raining is not good enough and we must get better bathing water data available all year round now.”

The Bill is listed for a second reading on June 14, but it is unlikely to make further progress without Government support due to a lack of parliamentary time to debate all Private Member’s Bills.

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