We asked the candidates ...

Environment

What are your plans for addressing the sewage discharges across the island? How will you call Southern Water to account?

Asked on:
May 26, 2024
Published on:
June 11, 2024

They answered ...

Michael Lilley : Liberal Democrats
General website referral

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has found since 2020, water companies have discharged sewage into bathing water areas 105,347 times, equating to a staggering 694,487 hours’ worth of sewage.

The key is to vote for stronger regulation, director personal penalties and insist upon investment plans and timetables for water companies to replace and renew the existing failing water infrastructure system on the Island.

I have been working with “Surfers against Sewage” for some time and have campaigned solidly on this issue. It was the Lib Dems motion that successfully brought this issue to IW Council and to get behind the commitment to hold Southern Water to account and stop any sewage discharges into the sea by 2030.

I have been the principal green advocate on the IW Council since 2017 and it was my successful motion that led to IW Council declaring a Climate Emergency and establishing a Climate and Biosphere strategy.

I am a member of the Green Lib Dems within the Lib Dems Party, and this part of the Lib Dems Party is pushing policy on new plans to protect coastal marine wildlife, which would see the expansion of the blue belt of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to cover at least 50% of the UK territorial waters by 2030. This would mean increasing the MPAs around the Island. The Lib Dems plan to abolish Ofwat, introducing a new regulator with greater powers, as well as a ban on water company executive bonuses.

Emily Brothers : Labour Party
General website referral

Over the last fourteen years the Conservatives have looked the other way while water companies pumped a tidal wave of raw sewage into our rivers, lakes and seas – putting lives at risk.

The Solent was the single-most polluted area by Southern Water in 2023, with popular Isle of Wight beaches named the worst contaminated, according to recent data from Top of the Poops. They report that the Isle of Wight was polluted by sewage 3,865 times, lasting 38,353 hours - that's 4.44 years! The findings said that the second worst contaminated beach by Southern Water was Sandown Bay, which was polluted 265 times lasting 4,000 hours or 5.56 months. Bembridge, Seagrove and St Helens sits fifth with 237 incidents, lasting 2,879 hours or four months.

Disgracefully, the Conservatives have wilfully ignored corruption at the heart of the water industry. The result is stinking, toxic sewage destroying our countryside and coastline, trashing nature, damaging tourism and putting our health at risk. There are particular concerns for people swimming, surfing and children playing.

The regulators are too weak, leaving water bosses to pocket nearly £10 million in bonuses whilst consumers are left to pick up the bill with £139 extra a year. Under Labour, the polluter - not the public - will pay.

Labour will put failing water companies under “special measures” to force them to clean up their toxic mess. We will strengthen regulation to give the water regulator powers to block the payment of any bonuses.

Labour will end self-monitoring and force all companies to monitor every single water outlet so companies can no longer cover up illegal sewage dumping.

Water bosses who continue to oversee law-breaking will face criminal charges. We will introduce severe and automatic fines for illegal sewage discharges.

Vix Lowthion : Green Party
Direct answer

We are lucky to live in a part of the world where we can access the coast, beaches and open blue spaces so close to the home. Island life is wonderful – and swimming in the sea is such a tonic for the physical and mental wellbeing of residents and visitors alike. Organisations like Swim the Wight have done wonders to promote and support more islanders getting out into the sea.

And then – sewage discharges rose across the island. This is not only shown via the Surfers Against Sewage app (with East Wight particularly bad) but also in recorded hours of discharge. In 2023 alone over 38,000 hours of sewage were discharged into island waters. That is over 4 years of constant discharges in only 12 months. It’s completely unacceptable for most of us – but our previous MP has consistently voted against meaningful action.

Privatisation of our water companies has failed. The regulator – OFWAT – has failed. And now the infrastructure – the pipes, the drains – have failed. England is one of the only nations in the world where water is run entirely by private companies – and after a series of fines some of these companies are in a difficult financial position. Green MPs would vote to take these companies back into public ownership, where investment could reduce waste and sewage discharges.

But this doesn’t mean that as your MP I would only pursue nationalisation. There are many other actions to take – such as tougher regulation and much higher fines, partnerships with local authorities and mitigations in terms of planning and urban landscape.  Practical solutions to manage surface water better, including SUDS schemes in our towns and water butts in our gardens, can also limit the extent of the problems.

Answers to this question will be shown on the "Published on" date above.

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