Sewage: Environment secretary Therese Coffey says stopping dumping ‘not her priority’

A Labour MP has slammed environment secretary Therese Coffey after she admitted that meeting executives at water firms dumping raw sewage into British rivers are ‘not her priority’.

Speaking in Parliament today, Jim McMahon said: “The environment secretary has been in post now for three weeks but the crisis of raw sewage turning England into an open sewer can be traced back to her time as environment minister.

“To undo that damage can she update the house on when she held a round table with all the water bosses and what the outcome was?”

Coffey replied: “We have seen some really difficult situations with water companies. I haven’t yet specifically prioritised the water companies because other ministers are doing so and I’m prioritising the work I’m doing in order to achieve the environmental targets in order to satisfy the legislation set out by Parliament.”

Therese Coffey says other ministers are looking into the UK sewage crisis (Parliament Live)
Therese Coffey says other ministers are looking into the UK sewage crisis (Parliament Live)

She added that the government was taking proactive action over sewer spillage.

Later, McMahon, the Oldham West & Royton MP, tweeted: “On average there’s a new sewage dumping event into our waters every two and a half minutes. Yet unbelievably, the environment secretary says it’s not a priority for her to meet with water companies!”

Last month, water company bosses admitted their firms’ environmental performance has been “unacceptable” amid concern over sewage pollution.

The water industry has seen its reputation battered by rising public anger over sewage spills from overflow drains into rivers and seas during heavy rain.

There has also been criticism over pollution from water treatment works, assessments of poor environmental performance by some companies, and this summer’s imposition of hosepipe bans amid high levels of water leaks.