Local MP Andrew Jones has hit back at claims he voted to dump raw sewage in our rivers. The claims are being made by political opponents but, Mr Jones says, bear no relation to the reality of the situation.
The controversy began when an amendment – knows as Amendment 45 – was submitted to the Environment Act in 2021 which called on water companies to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to reduce the amount of sewage going in to waterways.
This referred to the operation of Storm Discharge Overflows which have been operating since the sewage system was created in the Victoria era. During periods of extreme rain these overflows allow diluted sewage into waterways to prevent the sewers becoming overloaded. Were they not to do so the sewage would back up into our homes and run down our streets.
Amendment 45 did not specify how the operation of the overflows would be reduced, it did not identify any budget for doing so nor any monitoring process to ensure it happened. It gave no indication of what steps to reduce the operation of the overflows were ‘reasonable’.
So the Government proposed a beefed-up amendment which required water companies to produce a costed plan of how to reduce the use of Storm Discharge Overflows year-on-year. The amendment also required water companies to publish an annual report on their progress – something they have never had to do previously.
Andrew Jones said: “Let’s be clear, the Environment Bill does not allow raw sewage to be dumped. It recognises that raw sewage is already being dumped, has been for decades and sets out a range of measures to tackle it. Saying that anyone has voted to dump raw sewage in waterways is simply a lie.
“When politicians of all sides agree, as is so often the case, we should be able to work together constructively. Protecting the environment is one of the areas where we all agree but in this case it looks like the environment is being weaponised, deliberately, cynically, falsely.
“These Storm Discharge Overflows have been operating under governments of all colours for a hundred years – including when the Liberal Democrats were in Government and one of their MPs was the Minister for Water. This government decided to tackle the issue after it had been ducked by every previous government since our sewage system was constructed.
“To portray this as anything other is wilful misrepresentation of what the Environment Bill and the amendments to it have done. Some politicians obviously think it is a campaigning masterstroke and see tactical advantage in propagating this myth. Sadly some will read what they say and believe it to be true. Scaring people using falsehoods and half-truths Is pathetic and not worthy of anyone who is serious about sorting out the problems our country faces.”