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Agenda item

Councillor Copley - Rivers, Safe Swimming and Sewage

Background

Cambridge residents are deeply concerned about water quality and the impact of wastewater discharge, including untreated sewage, into the River Cam and its tributaries. Studies by the Cam Valley Forum show that sewage treatment works run by Anglian Water are the greatest source of faecal pathogens in the River Cam[1]. 

 

These are a major concern in relation to health of those who come into contact with the water, whether for work or leisure, - swimming in the River is increasingly popular.  In addition high levels of nitrate and phosphate and low levels of dissolved oxygen have a major negative impact on the ecological health of the river and streams.

 

The main sources of pollution are the numerous small village sewage works that are often totally overloaded and no longer fit for purpose and have failed to prevent sewage pollution of the Cam, Rhee and Granta rivers, upstream and downstream of Cambridge.  Releasing sewage into rivers and streams is no longer an emergency-only situation occurring as a result of severe storms, but is a regular occurrence even in ‘normal’ rainfall.

 

While Anglian Water have made long term commitments to making progress as set out in the notes, there are no plans in place to address the immediate unacceptable situation. 

 

Motion

This Council resolves to:

1.  Recognise the challenges facing our rivers and streams  due to the cumulative impact of sewage discharge events. 

2.  Engage with the Environment Agency as part of the forthcoming water resources management planning exercise (see notes) and seek to ensure that investment in the foul water treatment focuses on reducing discharges from existing treatment works into the rivers and streams in Cambridgeshire. 

3.  Organise a public meeting to discuss sewage discharge, its impacts on the City and priorities for action, inviting the Chief Executive of Anglian Water plus senior representatives from the Environment Agency and Natural England and South Cambridgeshire.

4.  Ask Anglian Water for clear information on all the treatment works that have an impact on the quality of water flowing through Cambridge: whether information is available to assess the impact of the number or duration of sewage discharges into the Cam catchment, and if it does have this information to share it (noting that this can only be requested, not required).

Notes:

1.  Anglian Water have stated:

“We agree that storm overflows are no longer fit for purpose, especially as our climate is changing and extreme weather is more commonplace.

 

Cambridge Independent 15 May 2022

 

2.  The company are currently running a consultation  and have stated:

 

Our draft DWMP indicates that over the next 25 years, investment of up to £3.5 billion is needed to address the future risks highlighted in our DWMP, as well as fixing some existing problems. And please note, while we await outputs from the Storm Overflow Action Plan this estimate of investment doesn’t include the assessment of costs required to meet the new storm overflow targets

 

3.  Anglian Water’s draft Drainage and Wastewater Management Plan is currently out for consultation (30 June - 16 September): https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/about-us/our-strategies-and-plans/drainage-wastewater-management-plan/draft-plan/ . Final version to be published Spring 2023.  The plan itself is here: https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/siteassets/household/about-us/dwmp-draft.pdf 



[1] Cam Valley Forum 2022 “Response to the Consultation on the Government’s DEFRA Storm Overflow

Discharge Reduction Plan”

Minutes:

Councillor Copley proposed and Councillor Howard seconded the following motion: 

 

Background

Cambridge residents are deeply concerned about water quality and the impact of wastewater discharge, including untreated sewage, into the River Cam and its tributaries. Studies by the Cam Valley Forum show that sewage treatment works run by Anglian Water are the greatest source of faecal pathogens in the River Cam[1]. 

 

These are a major concern in relation to health of those who come into contact with the water, whether for work or leisure, - swimming in the River is increasingly popular.  In addition high levels of nitrate and phosphate and low levels of dissolved oxygen have a major negative impact on the ecological health of the river and streams.

 

The main sources of pollution are the numerous small village sewage works that are often totally overloaded and no longer fit for purpose and have failed to prevent sewage pollution of the Cam, Rhee and Granta rivers, upstream and downstream of Cambridge.  Releasing sewage into rivers and streams is no longer an emergency-only situation occurring as a result of severe storms, but is a regular occurrence even in ‘normal’ rainfall.

 

While Anglian Water have made long term commitments to making progress as set out in the notes, there are no plans in place to address the immediate unacceptable situation. 

 

Motion

This Council resolves to:

1.  Recognise the challenges facing our rivers and streams  due to the cumulative impact of sewage discharge events. 

2.  Engage with the Environment Agency as part of the forthcoming water resources management planning exercise (see notes) and seek to ensure that investment in the foul water treatment focuses on reducing discharges from existing treatment works into the rivers and streams in Cambridgeshire. 

3.  Organise a public meeting to discuss sewage discharge, its impacts on the City and priorities for action, inviting the Chief Executive of Anglian Water plus senior representatives from the Environment Agency and Natural England and South Cambridgeshire.

4.  Ask Anglian Water for clear information on all the treatment works that have an impact on the quality of water flowing through Cambridge: whether information is available to assess the impact of the number or duration of sewage discharges into the Cam catchment, and if it does have this information to share it (noting that this can only be requested, not required).

Notes:

1.  Anglian Water have stated:

“We agree that storm overflows are no longer fit for purpose, especially as our climate is changing and extreme weather is more commonplace.

 

Cambridge Independent 15 May 2022

 

2.  The company are currently running a consultation  and have stated:

 

Our draft DWMP indicates that over the next 25 years, investment of up to £3.5 billion is needed to address the future risks highlighted in our DWMP, as well as fixing some existing problems. And please note, while we await outputs from the Storm Overflow Action Plan this estimate of investment doesn’t include the assessment of costs required to meet the new storm overflow targets

 

3.  Anglian Water’s draft Drainage and Wastewater Management Plan is currently out for consultation (30 June - 16 September): https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/about-us/our-strategies-and-plans/drainage-wastewater-management-plan/draft-plan/ . Final version to be published Spring 2023.  The plan itself is here: https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/siteassets/household/about-us/dwmp-draft.pdf 

 

Councillor Bick proposed and Councillor Thornburrow seconded the following amendment to motion (additional text underlined):

 

Background

Cambridge residents are deeply concerned about water quality and the impact of wastewater discharge, including untreated sewage, into the River Cam and its tributaries. Studies by the Cam Valley Forum show that sewage treatment works run by Anglian Water are the greatest source of faecal pathogens in the River Cam[1]

 

These are a major concern in relation to health of those who come into contact with the water, whether for work or leisure, - swimming in the River is increasingly popular. In addition high levels of nitrate and phosphate and low levels of dissolved oxygen have a major negative impact on the ecological health of the river and streams.

 

The main sources of pollution are the numerous small village sewage works that are often totally overloaded and no longer fit for purpose and have failed to prevent sewage pollution of the Cam, Rhee and Granta rivers, upstream and downstream of Cambridge. Releasing sewage into rivers and streams is no longer an emergency-only situation occurring as a result of severe storms, but is a regular occurrence even in ‘normal’ rainfall.

 

While Anglian Water have made long term commitments to making progress as set out in the notes, there are no plans in place to address the immediate unacceptable situation. 

 

Motion

This Council resolves to:

1. Recognise the challenges facing our rivers and streams due to the cumulative impact of sewage discharge events. 

2. Engage with the Environment Agency as part of the forthcoming water resources management planning exercise (see notes) and seek to ensure that investment in the foul water treatment focuses on reducing discharges from existing treatment works into the rivers and streams in Cambridgeshire. 

3. Organise a public meeting to discuss sewage discharge, its impacts on the City and priorities for action, inviting the Chief Executive of Anglian Water plus senior representatives from the Environment Agency and Natural England and South Cambridgeshire.

4. Ask Anglian Water for clear information on all the treatment works that have an impact on the quality of water flowing through Cambridge: whether information is available to assess the impact of the number or duration of sewage discharges into the Cam catchment, and if it does have this information to share it (noting that this can only be requested, not required).

5. Support the chair of the Environment Agency’s call to increase the legal accountability of water companies4 by requesting that the government introduce legal targets for intermediate and ultimately zero discharges, a sewage tax on discharges to contribute to supportive infrastructure, and increased criminal liability of company directors; and encourage Cambridge’s local MPs to join us in advocating this.

 

Notes:

1. Anglian Water have stated:

“We agree that storm overflows are no longer fit for purpose, especially as our climate is changing and extreme weather is more commonplace.

Cambridge Independent 15 May 2022

2. The company are currently running a consultation and have stated:

Our draft DWMP indicates that over the next 25 years, investment of up to £3.5 billion is needed to address the future risks highlighted in our DWMP, as well as fixing some existing problems. And please note, while we await outputs from the Storm Overflow Action Plan this estimate of investment doesn’t include the assessment of costs required to meet the new storm overflow targets

3. Anglian Water’s draft Drainage and Wastewater Management Plan is currently out for consultation (30 June - 16 September): https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/about-us/our-strategies-and-plans/drainage-wastewater-management-plan/draft-plan/ . Final version to be published Spring 2023.  The plan itself is here: https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/siteassets/household/about-us/dwmp-draft.pdf 

4. Environment Agency: Water and Sewerage Companies in England: Environmental Performance Report 2021:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/water-and-sewerage-companies-in-england-environmental-performance-report-2021/water-and-sewerage-companies-in-england-environmental-performance-report-2021

 

On a show of hands the amendment was carried unanimously.

 

Resolved (unanimously) that:

 

Background

Cambridge residents are deeply concerned about water quality and the impact of wastewater discharge, including untreated sewage, into the River Cam and its tributaries. Studies by the Cam Valley Forum show that sewage treatment works run by Anglian Water are the greatest source of faecal pathogens in the River Cam[1]

 

These are a major concern in relation to health of those who come into contact with the water, whether for work or leisure, - swimming in the River is increasingly popular. In addition high levels of nitrate and phosphate and low levels of dissolved oxygen have a major negative impact on the ecological health of the river and streams.

 

The main sources of pollution are the numerous small village sewage works that are often totally overloaded and no longer fit for purpose and have failed to prevent sewage pollution of the Cam, Rhee and Granta rivers, upstream and downstream of Cambridge. Releasing sewage into rivers and streams is no longer an emergency-only situation occurring as a result of severe storms, but is a regular occurrence even in ‘normal’ rainfall.

 

While Anglian Water have made long term commitments to making progress as set out in the notes, there are no plans in place to address the immediate unacceptable situation. 

 

Motion

This Council resolves to:

1. Recognise the challenges facing our rivers and streams due to the cumulative impact of sewage discharge events. 

2. Engage with the Environment Agency as part of the forthcoming water resources management planning exercise (see notes) and seek to ensure that investment in the foul water treatment focuses on reducing discharges from existing treatment works into the rivers and streams in Cambridgeshire. 

3. Organise a public meeting to discuss sewage discharge, its impacts on the City and priorities for action, inviting the Chief Executive of Anglian Water plus senior representatives from the Environment Agency and Natural England and South Cambridgeshire.

4. Ask Anglian Water for clear information on all the treatment works that have an impact on the quality of water flowing through Cambridge: whether information is available to assess the impact of the number or duration of sewage discharges into the Cam catchment, and if it does have this information to share it (noting that this can only be requested, not required).

5. Support the chair of the Environment Agency’s call to increase the legal accountability of water companies4 by requesting that the government introduce legal targets for intermediate and ultimately zero discharges, a sewage tax on discharges to contribute to supportive infrastructure, and increased criminal liability of company directors; and encourage Cambridge’s local MPs to join us in advocating this.

 

Notes:

1. Anglian Water have stated:

“We agree that storm overflows are no longer fit for purpose, especially as our climate is changing and extreme weather is more commonplace.

Cambridge Independent 15 May 2022

2. The company are currently running a consultation and have stated:

Our draft DWMP indicates that over the next 25 years, investment of up to £3.5 billion is needed to address the future risks highlighted in our DWMP, as well as fixing some existing problems. And please note, while we await outputs from the Storm Overflow Action Plan this estimate of investment doesn’t include the assessment of costs required to meet the new storm overflow targets

3. Anglian Water’s draft Drainage and Wastewater Management Plan is currently out for consultation (30 June - 16 September): https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/about-us/our-strategies-and-plans/drainage-wastewater-management-plan/draft-plan/ . Final version to be published Spring 2023.  The plan itself is here: https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/siteassets/household/about-us/dwmp-draft.pdf 

4. Environment Agency: Water and Sewerage Companies in England: Environmental Performance Report 2021:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/water-and-sewerage-companies-in-england-environmental-performance-report-2021/water-and-sewerage-companies-in-england-environmental-performance-report-2021

 



[1] Cam Valley Forum 2022 “Response to the Consultation on the Government’s DEFRA Storm Overflow

Discharge Reduction Plan”