CONCERNED councillors are calling on the region’s water supplier to take action on sewage dumping in the River Avon – which they say could be like having ‘an open sewer running through our town’.
Rugby Borough Council’s (RBC) leader is calling on Severn Trent to stop dumping untreated sewage into rivers and waterways, after a motion by Labour councillors received cross-party support.
The council’s Labour Group raised concerns that untreated sewage was dumped into the River Avon over 1,200 times in 2021.
Data from Severn Trent and the ‘Top of the Poops’ website shows there were over 450 dumps in the Rugby constituency that year – 117 of them in the Avon.
Coun Alison Livesey, who proposed the motion, said: “If the dumping took place upstream of Rugby, we effectively have an open sewer running through our town, villages and surrounding farmland.
“In 2013, water quality in the river had improved so much there were otters living in it close to the Tesco roundabout.
“When my daughters were small, their youth club took them canoeing on the river. I’d be really worried if I saw any child in or on the river today.”
Coun Margaret O’Rourke, who seconded the motion, said: “This is not only degrading our environment but it’s a threat to human and animal health. It’s outrageous that the water company can do this without anyone being informed.”
Council leader Coun Seb Lowe, leader of Rugby Borough Council, said he shared their concerns, adding: “I intend to write to the chief executive of Severn Trent to place on record our concerns and to request the full disclosure of information relating to specific incidents of pollution in the borough.
“I also want a commitment from Severn Trent to stop the practice of dumping untreated sewage in our rivers and waterways.
“In addition, I intend to write to the Environment Agency to seek similar assurances regarding the operation of Rugby’s wastewater treatment plant in Newbold.”
Severn Trent was fined £1.5million for its sewage discharges into waterways in 2021.
Waste water gets released into waterways by overflow pipes during heavy rainfall, to relieve pressure on the network.
A Severn Trent spokesperson said storm overflows were only used when absolutely necessary – their use being recognised by the Environment Agency as they allow water companies to protect customers’ homes from flooding during storms.
They added: “Severn Trent is moving faster, in some cases 20 years ahead of sector targets, to improve the quality of our region’s rivers. We’ve committed that our operations will not be the reason for any stretch of river in our region to be classified as unhealthy by 2030.
“At present, Severn Trent contributions account for 18 per cent of reasons for rivers in our region not achieving the Environment Agency’s good ecological status, and we’re confident that this will further reduce to 15 per cent by December this year.
“The remaining 85 per cent of reasons is attributed to other sectors, such as agriculture and rural land management.
“Severn Trent is recognised for its industry leading performance, consistently receiving the highest four-star rating by the Environment Agency, and we will continue to be open and transparent about progress and plans with our data points available for everyone to read on our dedicated Get River Positive website.”
All the private water firms that control the UK’s network were found to have missed targets for tackling pollution or sewage spills last year.
Water UK – which represents the nation’s water suppliers – says only 14 per cent of England’s rivers are rated as being in a good condition.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/48bj79xv for more information on Severn Trent’s Get River Positive commitments.