Agenda item

Motion submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 14 as to Water Quality and Sewage Discharge

To consider the following Motion in the names of Councillors Butt, Scott, Marchington and P A Davies;


This Council notes that:


1) Most of the UK has a combined sewerage system, meaning that both rainwater and waste water (from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens) are carried in the same pipes to a sewage treatment works. However, during heavy rainfall, the capacity of these pipes can be exceeded, which has the potential to back up and flood people’s homes, roads and open spaces, unless it is allowed to spill elsewhere. As a result, the system is designed to overflow occasionally and discharge excess wastewater into our rivers and seas. However, data shows that the use of overflows is not occasional, as it should be;


2) Sewage and wastewater discharge is a significant factor in water quality and has an adverse impact on the health of river ecosystems;


3) According to the Wildlife Trusts, only 16% of waters in England are currently in good ecological health and none meet chemical standards. This means that, overall, there are no rivers, lakes, estuaries or seas in England that are currently in a healthy condition;


4) This is a local issue as well. Last year, the amount of time sewage was allowed to spill into Yorkshire’s waterways was 232,054 hours, with 54,273 monitored spill events. According to the Environment Agency, parts of Yorkshire have some of the highest number of serious water pollution incidents in England and Kirklees has ranked amongst the highest in recent years.


Data from 2021 has revealed that 5 of the top 20 most polluted rivers are in Yorkshire, with the River Calder the second most sewage-polluted waterway in the country, with sewage flowing into the river and tributaries for 27,901



5) The Labour Party has published a plan to end the Conservative Sewage Dumping Scandal, with action to:


• Deliver mandatory monitoring of all sewage outlets

• Give the Environment Agency the power to properly enforce the rules

• Introduce a legally binding target to end 90% of sewage discharges by 2030

• Introduce automatic fines for discharges, and a standing charge penalty for discharge points without monitoring in place

• Ensure any failure to improve is paid for by eroding dividends, not added to customer bills, or hitting vital investment in the system

• Make sure that water bosses that routinely and systematically break the rules will be held professionally and personally accountable, by striking off company directors and ensuring illegal activity is punished.


The national Liberal Democrat party has published a plan to help tackle the sewage scandal. This includes:


• A ‘Sewage Tax’ of 16% on water companies to create an emergency fund for cleaning up rivers. The party believe that a significant proportion of the profits that water companies make should be reinvested to protect Britain’s streams and rivers, as it should be the water companies and not consumers who should pay to clean up the mess.

• Local environmental groups to be added onto water company boards to help support the water companies in their duties to protect and enhance the environment.

• Water companies should adopt a ‘public benefit company’ model, so that economic and environmental policy objectives are also considered when running the company, rather than just a return for shareholders.

• Ofwat, the water regulator, should be abolished and replaced with a tough new independent regulator with real powers, to protect our rivers and beaches from sewage dumps. The new regulator would have the power to hand out unlimited fines and, if necessary, to prosecute companies who fail to meet their legal duties.

• Rivers in Britain should be given a new ‘blue flag status’ to protect waterways from sewage dumping. The designations would work in a similar way to the international scheme that exists for beaches and marinas and requires a series of environmental standards to be met.


This Council believes that:


1) Healthy waterways are the foundation for all life, but our rivers and lakes have become poisoned, which has had a hugely negative impact on aquatic wildlife and habitats;


2) The Government needs to set out more ambitious targets to repair the damage inflicted on our rivers and watercourses;


3) The council has a number of legal responsibilities in relation to protecting its rivers and watercourses as well as in relation to public health;


4) Local authorities, including Kirklees Council, should also have powers to fine water utility companies for preventable sewage dumping. The Council should use its voice to put pressure on water companies and the Government to make improvements and fulfil their obligations to Kirklees residents and resident elsewhere across the country;


5) Many Kirklees residents are concerned about water quality and the impact of regular wastewater discharge and untreated sewage into our rivers, and the

impact that this has on human health and wildlife. Now, more than ever, water quality is at the forefront of public consciousness, as releasing sewage

into rivers is no longer an emergency-only situation occurring as a result of severe rainfall, but a regular occurrence. This is at a time when water companies are reportedly pushing to be allowed to increase water bills in England by up to 40% by 2030 to pay for the sewage crisis, essentially offloading the cost of cleaning up sewage spills on to British households.


This Council, therefore, resolves to:


1. Work collaboratively with the Canal & River Trust, Yorkshire Water and the Government, to improve water quality and adopt measures to end sewage dumping, including legally binding targets; mandatory monitoring; automatic fines; and using Ofwat’s existing powers to make sure that it is company dividends, not customers who pay the price.


2. Write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs calling for an urgent ban on sewage discharge in our rivers, lakes and watercourses.

Furthermore, to request that the Government is more ambitious in its overall target to improve water quality. It should be in line with the Wildlife Trusts’ target for at least 75% of rivers, streams and other freshwater bodies to reach an overall ‘clean waters’ status by 2042;


3. Write to Yorkshire Water to request that:


(1) They stop the routine discharge of sewage in our district’s rivers, lakes and watercourses and invest in appropriate infrastructure to reduce the frequency of the discharges;


(2) They provide the Council with an action plan outlining the steps they are taking to mitigate such instances of sewage discharge; and


(3) They review the plan on a 6 monthly basis to consider how they are complying with their legal obligations on this issue.



Motion approved.