‘Urgent action needed’ to tackle untreated sewage entering River Frome

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The issue sparked a fierce debate during a full South Gloucestershire Council meeting

Urgent action is needed to tackle untreated sewage entering the River Frome according to councillors in South Gloucestershire. Sewage can often enter the river through storm overflows, during periods of heavy rainfall, causing pollution and damage to local wildlife.

The issue of storm overflows and sewage sparked a fierce debate during a full South Gloucestershire Council meeting on December 14, as councillors disagreed on the best way to tackle the problem.

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Council chiefs were urged to ask the government for more cash to tackle sewage discharges and tighten up rules on installing new sewer connections. A motion was put forward by Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Lean, who said the government must be more ambitious.

He said: “Sewage discharge in our rivers primarily happens when storm overflows operate, when large volumes of rainwater and agricultural run-off enter the sewer network through the surface water drainage system. Schedule 3 is an important piece of legislation which would enforce the use of sustainable drainage and keep storm water out of our sewers.

“The local Conservative group say that storm overflows have no place in the 21st century, but they also support a government plan that seeks to manage storm overflow discharges until at least 2050. If we’re truly going to get rid of storm overflows, that plan needs to be far more ambitious.”

The River Frome at Snuff MillsThe River Frome at Snuff Mills
The River Frome at Snuff Mills | Daryl Finn - stock.adobe.com

Liberal Democrats urged the government to enact Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act. This would mean a new regulator being responsible for approving new connections of surface water drainage to the public sewer — in a bid to stop property developers from installing inadequate drainage systems, leading to sewage discharges.

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Council chiefs said much work was already taking place to improve South Gloucestershire’s sewage network. The motion was amended by Conservative councillors, who said instead the council should set up a new scrutiny committee to explore the issue and come up with some “achievable actions” which could be considered at a later date.

Tory council leader Toby Savage said: “The original motion submitted by the Liberal Democrats on storm overflows was very poorly worded and contained ambitions beyond the council’s direct control. We tabled an amendment to ask that a special scrutiny committee be established to look at the issue in more detail and to produce some achievable actions.

“Wessex Water have set out a number of improvements they intend to make to the local water network, including a 25% reduction in the number of hours of storm overflow discharges by 2025. Upgrades are planned at discharge locations at Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell, Doynton and others.

“Thanks to our amendment, residents can feel reassured this important issue will get the scrutiny it deserves. This will allow us to take meaningful action to protect our waterways and public health. With the Liberal Democrats abstaining on a vote to pursue our climate ambitions and voting against action on storm overflows, they are clearly lightyears behind public opinion on these extremely important environmental issues.”

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