Political row erupts after raw sewage is dumped into Melton rivers 853 times
After raw sewage was dumped into rivers and streams in the Melton borough nearly 1,000 times last year, MP Alicia Kearns has come under fire from prominent local Green Party members for opposing a move to force water companies to drastically reduce it happening.
Mrs Kearns was one of 265 MPs who voted last week to defeat a proposed amendment to the Environment Bill which would have seen companies such as Severn Trent Water having to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to avoid using combined sewer overflows to send untreated sewage flowing into rivers and streams.
She argues that the bill already includes stringent safeguards on water pollution and that not using storm sewage overflows would cost billions of pounds to adapt existing infrastructure which would be passed on to householders and increase their bills.
Data from the Environment Agency and The Rivers Trust shows that raw sewage was dumped into rivers in the Melton borough 853 times in 2020 over a total time period of 8,489 hours.
This includes 73 times (over 170 hours) into the River Eye off Asfordby Road and 44 times (308 hours) at the town sewage treatment works.
More than half of the borough’s discharge incidents came in villages south of the town, including Cold Overton (191), Ragdale (61), Burton Lazars (56) and Somerby (50).
In the Vale of Belvoir, raw sewage was dumped into rivers and streams at Nether Broughton 58 times, Croxton Kerrial (50) and Harby (42), as well as at several other locations.
Rutland and Melton Green Party member, Alastair McQuillan, who stood at the last General Election against Mrs Kearns two years ago, said he was angry that privatised UK water companies had paid out £57bn in dividends to shareholders since 1991, at an average of £1.9bn per year.
He told the Melton Times: “It is outrageous that our MP has not taken this opportunity to hold Severn Trent Water to account.
“They continue to pay money to shareholders rather than invest in the infrastructure to stop this indefensible practice of dumping raw sewage in our rivers.”
His sentiments were echoed by Melton borough councillor Phil Wood, a Green Party member who represents Melton Dorian ward.
Criticising Mrs Kearns for helping defeat the amendment, he said: “Voting in this way, putting it simply, she has failed the residents of this borough.”
Mrs Kearns reacted angrily to the criticism she has received from local Greens, and others via social media, following the Commons vote on the issue.
She said she voted to continue to allow storm overflow discharge in the most extreme weather, which would prevent flooding in the event of heavy rain.
“A ban on sewage discharge would mean discharge into pavements and fields – causing a public health crisis – and a financial one,” she told the Melton Times.
“The cost estimate for eliminating storm sewage overflows ranges between £150 billion and £660 billion.
“Or up to £20,000 per household.
“On an environmental note, the Bill rightly places a range of new legal responsibilities on water companies to tackle water pollution.
“It’s shameful for opposition politicians to misrepresent how Conservative MPs voted – and really does show how public discourse in this country has deteriorated.“
The amendment to the Environment Bill, which was tabled by the Duke of Wellington and supported by Green Party peers in the House of Lords, was defeated by 265 votes to 202, with 22 Tories voting for the amended bill.
It was campaigned for following the statistics for 2020 which revealed there were more than 400,000 incidents of raw sewage dumping in watercourses across the UK, with Severn Trent Water one of the most prolific companies, doing it for a total of more than 550,000 hours.
The debate is taking place as world leaders prepare to attend the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Glasgow from Sunday, to prepare a plan to improve the environmental prospects of the planet.