Sewage in sea: French appeal to EU over UK discharges of waste
Three European MPs claim that by permitting raw sewage to be dumped into the North Sea and the English Channel, the UK is threatening the health and marine life along the French coast.
Pollution alerts have been issued for more than 50 beaches in England and Wales after heavy rains prompted sewage overflow to be redirected into rivers and the sea.
The French MEPs charge that the UK is putting fisheries and marine life in danger and disobeying its environmental duties.
British water companies have said they are investing to solve the problem.
The United Kingdom has disregarded its environmental promises since leaving the European Union, according to the MEPs, who wrote to the European Commission asking for legal or political action.
In the majority of the UK, sewage is transported to sewage treatment facilities through the same pipes as rainwater thanks to a combined sewage system.
The system is built to occasionally overflow and discharge untreated sewage into rivers and the sea in order to keep homes and public areas from flooding after severe storms.
The recent hot weather has heightened the risk of floods due to the dry ground’s slow absorption of water.
According to Water UK, which represents the UK water sector, water companies “believe there is an urgent need” for action and are investing more than £3 billion to address overflows between 2020 and 2025 as part of a larger national environmental initiative.
The Defra spokeswoman announced that the government would shortly introduce the largest-ever programme in the UK to reduce sewage overflow during storms.
Even though it was no longer subject to EU laws, the MEPs argued that the UK was still a signatory to key United Nations conventions on preserving shared rivers.
The three MEPs are all part of En Marche, an organisation that supports the EU and is backed by French President Emmanuel Macron. Pierre Karleskind, the head of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, is one of them.
He argued that it was intolerable for the UK to break its promises under Brexit and jeopardise 20 years of improvements in water quality standards across Europe.