Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 08:51 UK

Sewage pipes left 'unregulated'

Sewage pipe
Sewage overflows cannot cope with climate change, said MCS

The Environment Agency has given water companies in England and Wales a "licence to pollute", says a charity.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says sewage is being dumped into rivers and coastal waters by thousands of "unregulated" overflow pipes.

It said some 3,500 combined sewer overflows - flood-release mechanisms for sewers carrying both sewage and storm water - needed urgent review.

The Environment Agency said most of the overflows were a low pollution risk.

Climate change

MCS said the combined sewage overflows were designed for a climate which had since changed.

The charity's coastal pollution officer, Thomas Bell, said: "Because of the effects of climate change we are having a lot more rain.

"The combined sewer overflows are starting to discharge a lot more often than they should. Their environmental impact is greatly increasing."

Because most of these have not been identified as unsatisfactory and are low risk to water quality they are not a priority of ours
Environment Agency

MCS said the Environment Agency had an obligation to review the overflows, and that they had not been adequately investigated since they were given temporary consent ahead of water company privatisation in 1989.

Mr Bell, who called for bigger fines for polluting water companies, said: "It amounts effectively to a licence to pollute, because there are no restrictions on how much and how often these pipes can discharge."

The Environment Agency said the pipes were designed to operate in times of extreme rainfall.

A spokeswoman said: "We have identified around 3,500 of these temporary consents but we operate on a risk basis.

"Because most of these have not been identified as unsatisfactory and are low risk to water quality they are not a priority of ours.

"We appreciate that sometimes they can be a problem so obviously we are working to tackle that."




SEE ALSO
Raw sewage blights beach report
23 May 08 |  Sussex

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific