Call for action as sewage overflows increase in Marston Moretaine and across Central Bedfordshire

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Six spills in the areas were the equivalent of 245 days of sewage escaping

Sewage spills in Marston Moretaine and across Central Bedfordshire have increased throughout 2023 according to new data released by the Environment Agency.

Figures show a sewer overflowed 103 times in the village for a total 1,558 hours – the equivalent of 64 days.

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And Mid Beds MP Alistair Strathern is demanding action after the latest figures revealed the six worst spills in the areas were the equivalent to 245 days of raw sewage being pumped out. Mr Strathern has called for the Government to take urgent action on sewage as the number of storm overflows recorded by Anglian Water increased by 46 per cent – from 15 in 2022 to 22 in 2023.

Residents in Leighton Buzzard have complained of sewage in local streamsResidents in Leighton Buzzard have complained of sewage in local streams
Residents in Leighton Buzzard have complained of sewage in local streams

The news comes as it was announced that nationally, sewage spills doubled from 2022 to 2023.

The Environment Agency reported more than 3.6 million hours of spills across England, up from 1.75 million hours in 2022. On average there were over 1,200 spills every day in England. The overflows contain human waste, wet wipes and sanitary products. This heavily damages and pollutes waterways, harming wildlife, swimmers and the natural environment.

The Environment Agency published its Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) data for 2023 this week, showing the frequency and duration of spills from storm overflows in England. The increase in spills compared to 2022 is partly because 2023 was named by the Met Office as the 6th wettest year since its records began in 1836. But heavy rainfall does not affect water companies’ responsibility to manage storm overflows in line with legal requirements.

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The Environment Agency takes enforcement action when illegal discharges from storm overflows are identified. Last month, a fourfold increase in the number of water company inspections was announced to uncover any water industry non-compliance with environmental permits.

In Leighton Buzzard, a sewer outlet near the town overflowed 30 times, for the equivalent of 16 days while near Stanbridgeford a sewer overflowed 126 times for 2,160 hours, the equivalent of 90 days. In Marston Moretaine a sewer overflowed 103 times for 1,558 hours, the equivalent of 64 days.

Mr Strathern said: "Locally the fact that we've seen a rise in spills from Anglian Water this year confirms more action is needed, and I'll be meeting with Anglian to press for more urgent investment to tackle this.

“I am horrified by the stunning levels of raw sewage spills happening all day, every day across in our region and across the country. Our beautiful countryside is being scarred as the water companies get away with polluting our environment."

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An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “We are disappointed to see our spill numbers have increased this year. However, we are confident that investments we’ve been making to reduce spills have moved the dial in the right direction and spills would have been considerably higher without it.

“It is important to acknowledge the exceptionally wet weather we had late last year, which meant that 70 per cent of our spills were in Q4 alone and in stark comparison to the extremely dry year in 2021, as climate change continues to result in more extreme weather events.”

Anglian is installing storm tanks and wetlands in Leighton Linslade, Odell, Wrestlingworth and Poppyhill and a new wetland will be installed in Dunston totalling £7.6m.

It is also investing £44m in increasing the treatment capacity to cater for the population growth in places like Sandy, Clapham, and Marston Moretaine.

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