Sewage in sea: French appeal to EU over UK discharges of waste

Sewage in sea: French appeal to EU over UK discharges of waste
Sewage in sea: French appeal to EU over UK discharges of waste/courtesy of science photo library

According to three Euro MPs, the UK is endangering the health and marine life along the French coast by permitting raw sewage to be thrown into the North Sea and the English Channel.


After heavy rains forced sewage overflow to be redirected into rivers and the sea, pollution warnings have been issued for over 50 beaches in England and Wales.


The French MEPs accuse the UK of disregarding its environmental obligations and endangering fisheries and marine life.


British water firms have said they are investing to address the issue.


The MEPs stated in a letter requesting legal or political action from the European Commission that the United Kingdom has ignored its environmental responsibilities since it left the European Union.

A representative for the UK government referred to their claim as “just not true.”


The MEPs contended that the UK was still a signatory to pertinent United Nations agreements on preserving shared waterways, even if it was no longer subject to EU legislation.


The three MEPs are all members of En Marche, a pro-EU group supported by French President Emmanuel Macron. The chairman of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee is Pierre Karleskind.

He stated that the UK could not be permitted to disregard its obligations under the terms of Brexit and jeopardize the 20 years of advancement of water quality standards in Europe.


The MEPs warn that short-term sewage leaks might endanger fishing, oyster farming, and bathing waters around the French coast. They could also have a negative impact on marine biodiversity.

The North Sea and the Channel are not disposal areas, according to Stéphanie Yon-Courtin, a member from Normandy who serves on the fisheries committee of the EU parliament.

Wastewater from toilets is transported to sewage treatment facilities through the same pipes as rainwater in the majority of the United Kingdom, thanks to a combined sewage system.


The system is intended to periodically overflow and discharge untreated sewage into rivers and the sea to protect houses and public areas from flooding during heavy rains.

The recent hot weather has made flooding more likely since the parched earth can’t absorb water as rapidly.

According to Water UK, which speaks for the UK water sector, water companies “believe there is an urgent need” for action and will spend more than £3 billion between 2020 and 2025 to address overflows as part of a larger national environmental initiative.


According to a representative of the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it is false that the country does not hold itself accountable for meeting water quality goals. “The Environment Act had strengthened our rules on water quality even more than they were when we were in the EU, with additional tools to address hazardous compounds in our waters as well as objectives to combat nutrient pollution.”

“We have also made it law for water companies to reduce the frequency and volume of discharges from storm overflows and made it law for water companies to install new monitors to report in real-time any sewage discharges in their area.”

The Liberal Democrats, however, claim that water providers do not adequately monitor sewage since many of these monitoring devices are either not installed or are not functional.


According to the Defra spokeswoman, the government will shortly unveil the largest-ever strategy in the UK to lessen sewage overflow during storms.

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