Morning Simon: Here is today’s news

Raw sewage released into the sea around Devon (With spotlight on Budleigh Salterton )

When you toed the line and voted down the Lord’s amendment you were condoning regulation that most of us know is ineffective. You have described subsequent criticisms as: “ludicrous and misleading accusations”. Are you sure that the u-turn proposals now being considered by the government will actually work?

A little thought for you to ponder Simon: why are South West Water renewing the main overflow discharge in association with  the Otter Regeneration Project?

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com

Heavy rain has led to raw sewage being discharged into the sea near a Devon river where £15million is being spent to restore the natural environment.

An online map published by Surfers Against Sewage reports a storm overflow incident at Budleigh Salterton, near the mouth of the River Otter.

It says there are three discharge pipes in the area, part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site.

One sewer overflow discharges directly onto the beach, another is 400m east and another discharges 1.3km away into the sea.

The estuary and cliffs form a nationally important site for biodiversity and the area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The discharge of raw sewage into rivers and seas hit the headlines after the government rejected a plan from the House of Lords to end storm overflows.

The government voted down an amendment to the Environment Bill, then did a U-turn after an outcry and announced it will tighten the law to put a legal duty on water firms to reduce the harm from storm overflows.

Water companies are allowed to discharge a mixture of rainwater and sewage in extreme weather to stop the mostly Victorian sewerage system backing up.

There 400,000 sewage discharges last year, with 42,000 by South West Water, which operates in Devon and Cornwall. Concerns have been raised by the poor quality of river water, but the company says bathing waters have improved.

Environment groups including Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning for an end to the discharges, which they say risk the health of water users.

But government supporters say it is already taking action and the investment needed of at least £150billion would increase bills.

The Surfers Against Sewage map also showed storm overflows of raw sewage in the last 48 hours in south Devon at Exmouth, Dawlish, Holcombe, Teignmouth, Meadfoot and Abbey Sands at Torquay, Preston and Goodrington at Paignton, and in North Devon at Combe Martin, Wollacombe, Croyde and Westward Ho!

South West Water says it is “absolutely committed to improving river quality and protecting bathing waters in our region.” It said so far this year there has been a 60 per cent reduction in pollution incidents and 97 per cent of bathing waters are rated good or excellent, compared to 28.6 per cent in 1991.

The River Otter estuary is at the eastern end of the beach, and a £15million EU-backed project started in the summer to restore a floodplain on land previously reclaimed from the sea.

Downpours have caused flooding alongside the river and construction vehicles being used in the project were caught by the rising waters last week, which closed South Farm Road and halted work.

A statement from the Lower Otter Restoration Project said: “As soon as the floodwater started to subside our contractors moved the equipment and vehicles.

“Most machines could be restarted and driven out of the floodwaters when water levels allowed. South Farm Road is now open and has been swept clear for residents and access to South Farm businesses as usual.

“Environment Agency pollution staff closely monitored the site clear up to ensure that the river has not been adversely affected following the flooding. We are pleased to confirm that no material pollutant release was identified.

“We are working with our contractor to learn from the event and understand why the construction plant was not moved ahead of the flooding. We are already making improvements to ensure this does not happen again at LORP or any of our other sites.”

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