Bishop of St Albans asks about water pollution

The Bishop of St Albans asked a question about government discussions with water companies regarding pollution on 1st March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask His Majesty’s Government what recent discussions they have had with water companies regarding water pollution.

Lord Benyon (Con): My Lords, the current environmental performance of water companies is unacceptable. In December 2022, the Water Minister and the Secretary of State met with CEOs of lagging water companies—as identified by Ofwat’s recent assessment—to outline the Government’s expectations that performance must improve significantly. Furthermore, in January, my colleague Rebecca Pow met with the CEO of South West Water. She will be meeting the CEOs of all lagging companies individually every six months and she expects to see significant progress. Most recently, I also met CEOs of water companies with Minister Pow to highlight the importance of addressing water pollution and reaching their net-zero goals.

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Bishop of St Albans calls for action on sewage disposal in rivers and coastal waters

On 7th July 2022, the House of Lords debated a motion put forward by Lord Oates on Sewage Disposal in Rivers and Coastal Waters. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate – the Bishop’s speech is below along with contributions by other peers:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for achieving this important debate. Many of the horrifying facts and statistics have been laid out with great clarity before your Lordships’ House.

I live in the city of St Albans, which is built next to the ancient Roman city of Verulamium. We have a 17-mile chalk stream which runs through the city called the River Ver, based on its Roman name; it flows eventually into the River Colne. We have a thriving local group of activists, the Ver Valley Society, which was set up and continues to work with great vigour to protect this really important chalk stream—it is really a stream rather than a river.

In 2021, the sewage treatment works at the top of the river spilled for 2,646 hours—just over 100 hundred days, so nearly a third of the year. Not only was that appallingly bad for this unique ecosystem—chalk streams and chalk rivers are mainly found here in this country—it was also bad because of the residual nitrate in the aquifer and it has led to a very poor state of the chalk stream. Insects at the bottom of the food chain are not as plentiful as they once were. Likewise, aquatic plant life is also suffering. It is unacceptable for this lovely, delightful small river, that many of us walk along regularly for leisure, that goes through our park, to be treated so badly.

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