Bishop of St Albans asks about public health impacts of sewage discharges

The Bishop of St Albans asked a question about the public health consequences of sewage being discharged into the sea and rivers on 14th November 2022:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, this is not just causing devastation in our rivers—not least in our wonderful chalk streams in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire in my diocese—it is also a public health issue. Noble Lords may have seen the story of Jayne Etherington, a 22 year-old who went swimming in Pembrokeshire, caught E. coli from sewage and landed up in hospital with serious damage to her organs. What does the NHS think about this as a health hazard which is affecting a significant number of people and stopping them getting exercise by swimming in the sea?

Lord Benyon (Con): The right reverend Prelate’s question is very well linked to the point made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington. The urgency of these matters is reflected in the urgency with which we are intending to deal with them. I would hate any noble Lord to be of the view that some of the dates in legislation, such as the Environment Act and in other measures to control this, mean that we are going to continue to allow pollution in the belief that it is suddenly going to drop off a cliff at the end. We are tackling the most important public health areas, such as bathing waters, the chalk streams that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, mentioned and the most precious environments—some of which have overlaying international designations. It is right that we have public health to consider, but we also have the health of our natural environment. We are tackling the problems where they are worst and where we can make the most difference as quickly as possible.


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