A new law intended to prevent raw sewage being released into the Wye and other rivers was passed this week with the backing of Herefordshire’s two MPs. But local campaigners say it doesn’t go far enough.

Last month the Commons controversially rejected a House of Lords amendment to the Environment Bill that would have brought in penalties on water companies for permitting storm overflows which result in raw sewage entering water courses.

These are thought to have contributed to the deteriorating ecological health of the Wye.

The Government then introduced its own, similar amendment which was voted through on Monday. With this final hurdle cleared, the Bill has now become law.

Describing the frequent sewage discharges from storm overflows into water courses as “absolutely unacceptable”, environment minister Rebecca Pow told the Commons: “We are placing a direct legal duty on water companies to… reduce discharges or face strong enforcement action.”

Save the Wye, which describes itself as an umbrella campaign, Tweeted: “Not one Wye catchment MP voted for the tougher Duke of Wellington amendment which would have strengthened current legislation.”

In a joint statement, The Rivers Trust, Angling Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, and Salmon & Trout Conservation said the wording of the government’s amendment “is weaker, with too much room for broad interpretation, does not go far enough, (and has) significant loopholes”.

Hereford Times: The Hereford Times Save the Wye campaignThe Hereford Times Save the Wye campaign Herefordshire MPs Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin voted for the Government amendment but not the earlier Lords amendment.

The Golden Valley Action Group Tweeted that by doing so, Mr Norman had “voted to allow the water companies to continue dumping sewage”.

But Mr Norman said: “The Duke of Wellington's amendment was admirable in spirit, but its wording was vague and so potentially unenforceable.

“The Government's revised amendment was designed to address this, and it is stronger, not weaker, than the Duke’s.”

As it now takes effect, this will “ensure that there is a clear and effective legal regime by which sewage discharges can be reduced and, I hope, eliminated”, Mr Norman said.


North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin added: “This week saw the end of a long struggle to prevent flood waters from washing untreated sewage into the river Wye.

“We have succeeded in bringing in a new law to prevent this and to force water companies to actively stop this sort of pollution.”