Leader Takes Action Over Sewage in Sea Concerns
South Tyneside Council's Leader is calling for action amid concerns of sewage being discharged into the sea off Whitburn Village.
The letter to the Environment Agency, which has also been sent to the Secretary of State, requests that all available and relevant advice is considered in by the regulatory body when determining an application from Northumbrian Water to vary the conditions of their sewage discharge permit at Whitburn to permit new flows entering in the system.
It comes in response to public concerns, complaints and enquiries relating to the outfall at Whitburn.
Councillor Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "As in many coastal communities, local people are passionate about the quality of their coastal waters and the importance of protecting it for bathing, for marine life and for the environment.
"It is important to establish the facts relating to sewage overflows into the North Sea at Whitburn as well as ensuring that the local sewage system, including the treatment of raw sewage, is performing as it should.
"That is why I am requesting that the Environment Agency, as the ruling organisation in relation to the application, intervenes and takes whatever action is necessary to ensure officials have all the information available, and that it is fully considered, before making a decision in the matter."
In January 2022, South Tyneside Council declared an urgent need for ocean recovery through its 'Motion for the Ocean'. In endorsing the Motion, the Council made a commitment to take positive action to help enhance, restore and protect the ocean.
Part of this work has included pushing for policy change at national level.
The letter to Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, follows earlier correspondence to The Rt Hon Therese Coffey, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in which the Leader and Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Transport and Neighbourhoods, lobby for a more comprehensive all-year round water quality testing regime.
This was in response to concerns over sewage being discharged into local waterways and the sea from storm overflows, which come into effect following periods of extreme weather such as heavy rainfall. They aim to protect homes and businesses from sewage flooding.
Councillor Dixon added: "Right now, the water quality testing regime is restricted to designated bathing water beaches and main rivers.
"This means we don't have a full picture of what is in our wider coastal waters or inland watercourses, which receive discharges from combined sewer overflows. The impact on our environment is unknown. Better testing will help us better understand what is discharged into our streams, rivers and offshore.
"As a coastal community and lead authority for the Local Government Association's Coastal Special Interest Group, we are committed to doing all we can to protect our waters, highlighting the concerns in our communities and challenging the government to do more."