Ed Davey calls for ‘tougher’ regulator after Thames Water sewage spills rise over 100%

The Liberal Democrats have demanded tougher regulations following new data that sewage dumping in the Thames has increased by 112% between 2022 and 2023.

Lib Dem MP, Sir Ed Davey called for action today against sewage companies and for a new, stricter replacement for the national water regulator Ofwat.

“It is a complete scandal that filthy sewage is being pumped into our local rivers and waterways,” said Sir Ed.

Analysis of Environment Agency data by the Liberal Democrats found that Thames Water, which covers Kingston and Surbiton, had dumped sewage in the Thames and the Hogsmill almost 17,000 times in the last year.

This comes following data analysis by Labour revealing a 60% increase in hospital admissions for waterborne infections.

Sir Ed has also called for action in holding water company executives to account.

He said: “We need to see a ban on bonuses for water company bosses whose firms have pumped filth into our waterways and far tougher regulations to protect our community from this filth.”

Last month, sewage and water companies pledged £180 million worth of investments towards reducing waste spills. However, Thames Water declined to participate in the initiative.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay MP disapproved of sewage spills by water companies, stating: “The amount of sewage being spilled into our rivers is completely unacceptable and the public rightly expects action.”

Esher and Walton Conservative MP candidate Cllr John Cope said the spills have been a hidden issue for decades, but credited government legislation in exposing the problem.

Helen Edwards, Kingston Conservative MP candidate said recent sewage spills have been worsened by heavy rainfall.

Edwards also criticised Sir Ed’s 16% sewage tax proposal, claiming that it would take more than 300 years to raise the funds to eliminate waste discharges.

Thames Water cover 68,000 miles of sewers and cover over 350 sewage treatment works. Credit: Photo by Maureen McLean/Shutterstock

“The sector and the government are making very significant investments in infrastructure including £4.3bn in Thames Tideway, a super sewer under The Thames,” said Edwards.

A Thames Water spokesperson said sewage overflows are designed to automatically release diluted waste when sewer networks are overwhelmed.

Thames Water pledged to reduce waste discharges in their coverage and have contributed to the Thames Tideway, which they claim will remove 24 combined sewer overflows from the Thames.

“We regard any untreated discharges as unacceptable, and we’re committed to stopping them from being necessary. Storm discharges are closely linked to rainfall and our region experienced above average rainfall for most of 2023,” said Thames Water.

Sir Ed, however, has criticised the Conservative party, claiming that Tory MPs have voted against measures to address sewage spillage.

“Tory MPs have consistently voted against measures which would have helped to tackle the crisis, including neighbouring MPs like Stephen Hammond in Wimbledon, and Dominic Raab in Esher and Walton,” said the Kingston Liberal Democrats.

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Political Editor and Reporter for the Kingston Courier

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