Masses of raw sewage is being pumped into Milton Keynes’ rivers, Labour councillors reveal
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The problem of raw sewage being pumped into Milton Keynes’ rivers has been exposed by local Labour councillors.
They have revealed that MK's local water company, Anglian Water, released sewage into rivers across England for over 390,000 hours in 2020.
And the Rivers Trust has shown this sewage is affecting the River Ouzel and River Great Ouse in Milton Keynes, which are local beauty spots and a haven for wildlife.
Sewage has also been discharged into river tributaries and brooks around the city in last year – particularly around Stony Stratford and Wolverton, say councillors.
There are also two sewer storm overflows upstream of the River Great Ouse, by Towcester and Silverstone, which over-spilled 136 times in 2020 for a total of 2,215 hours, they claim.
A new, interactive map has been published by the Rivers Trust to show how local rivers are being polluted by raw, untreated sewage from private water companies.
MK Labour has repeatedly shared its concerns over how the Conservative Government allows this to happen and pollute local waterways.
Councillor Jenny Wilson-Marklew, Labour Cabinet member for Climate Change and Sustainability, said: “These figures are alarming and highlight how private companies are devastating our local rivers. We care deeply about biodiversity and the health of our communities; knowing that our children play in these rivers is sickening.”
The government’s Environment Agency allows water utilities to release sewage into rivers after extreme weather, such as heavy rain.
Last month, Tory MPs – including MK’s Iain Stewart and Ben Everitt – voted to continue allowing companies to dump sewage in rivers. This resulted in environmental backlash, and a video was released showing sewage pouring into the sea at a conservation area for 49 hours.
The Tories then made a U-turn, backing a move to place a legal duty on water companies to “take all reasonable steps” to prevent sewage discharges.
Councillor Lauren Townsend, Labour's local Cabinet member for Public Realm, said: “This Conservative government has begrudgingly backtracked just to save face. Our local MPs wanted to stand by while our waterways were polluted with sewage, including human waste, wet wipes and condoms, and that is despicable.
“Even with this U-turn, the Conservative government is still not going far enough to properly protect our waterways.”
The Labour leader of Milton Keynes Council, Cllr Pete Marland, last month wrote to the Chief Executive of Anglian Water to oppose any discharge of sewage that has not been fully treated into the waterways of Milton Keynes.
An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “The water industry shares the ambitions of our customers, and their expectation that our rivers should be beautiful places, rich in nature. That’s why we’ve already set out a framework for a comprehensive national plan to achieve that.
“In it, we call on government and regulators to authorise new investment, and for a much stronger effort on tackling the causes of sewers overloading, like blockages from wet wipes and poorly-designed housing developments."
Anglian Water says agriculture is the biggest source of rivers failing to achieve good water quality, and this is backed up by data from the Environment Agency.