As predicted, post-Brexit de-regulation sees a return to raw sewage discharge in UK coastal waters, writes Gary Cartwright

French lawmakers in the European parliament are urging the EU to take measures to end British discharges of raw sewage into shared waters - part of what they say is an unacceptable lowering of environmental standards since Brexit, Reuters reports.

The three leading French lawmakers said in a letter to EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius that they feared harm to marine biodiversity and to fish and shellfish industry.

Fishing committee chief Pierre Karleskind, committee member Stephanie Yon-Courtin, who is also a member of the Normandy regional council, and former French minister Nathalie Loiseau referred to media reports last week about large-scale pumping of sewage into Britain's seas.

"We cannot let the environment, the economic activity of our fishermen and the health of citizens be seriously endangered by the repeated negligence of the United Kingdom in the management of its wastewater," Yon-Courtin said in a statement.

Prior to October 2000 and the adoption by the UK of "Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy" or, for short, the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), swimming in Britain's coastal waters could be an unpleasant and dangerous activity.

Excrement, used sanitary towels, and other such floating in the seas off Cornish beaches will be remembered well by those who swam or surfed in the 80's and 90's. Many, myself included, predicted that post-Brexit de-regulation would lead to a return of the problem. Our fears have been confirmed.

The earlier problems prompted the formation of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) in 1990. The organisation, which operates to this day is now a major environmental NGO, numbering 20,000 members.

Sewage pollution still plagues the rivers and ocean. Last year there were over 370,000 discharges of untreated sewage into English waters adding up to over 2.7 million hours. And during the bathing season water companies issued over 3,300 notifications for sewage being discharged straight into UK coastal bathing waters... When we swim, surf, paddle or play in water that has raw sewage in it, we’re at risk of catching gastroenteritis, ear, nose and throat infections, skin infections, and even hepatitis and e-coli. Water users in the UK are just as likely to get ill from seawater as they were in the 1990s.

Surfers Against Sewage.

A Water UK spokesperson told Cornwall Live on Friday: “Water companies agree there is an urgent need for action to tackle the harm caused to the environment by spills from storm overflows and wastewater treatment works... Water companies can’t do this alone which why we’re also calling for Government, regulators, water companies, agriculture and other sectors to come together as soon as possible to deliver a comprehensive national plan to bring about the transformation in our rivers and waterways we all want to see."

SAS now campaign on a number of issues, the group's recent report on the "dirty dozen" worst plastic polluters of the oceans is well worth a read:

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

He is a of member the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK, and the oldest in the world having been founded in October 1884

Gary's most recent book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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