Uttlesford Liberal Democrats have demanded action on the discharge of raw sewage into the district's rivers and streams, which they describe as an "absolute scandal".

Cllrs Geoffrey Sell and Alan Dean urged the council to write to the Secretary of State for the Environment and to Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch.

Cllr Dean said: "A growing population, Victorian infrastructure and an increase in extreme weather events has increased the pressure on our sewer system, bringing the frequency of discharges from Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) in the south of Uttlesford to unacceptable levels.

"Latest Environment Agency figures show that in 2022 there were 50 discharges for over 700 hours into Pincey Brook from the Takeley WWTW, 17 discharges from the Stansted Mountfitchet WWTW the totalling 147 hours into the River Stort and 33 discharges totalling 268 hours from the Great Easton WWTW into the River Chelmer."

Cllr Sell added: "It is an absolute scandal that the Water and Sewage Companies are polluting our rivers so badly whilst at the same time paying out huge dividends to their shareholders."

District councillors agreed unanimously to call for the legislation to be strengthened in relation to sewage discharges, and for raw sewage discharges to be reduced by at least 50 per cent by 2030.

Smita Rajesh, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for North West Essex, visited Stansted WWTW with Cllr Dean and Cllr Sell. 

She said: "I am saddened to see that Kemi Badenoch recently voted to block the Liberal Democrat proposal in the House of Commons, to allow people who fall sick due to illegal sewage dumping to claim compensation.

"Once again the Conservatives have chosen to stand with the water companies and let them off the hook."

Mrs Badenoch said: "It is extremely cheeky and dare I say, duplicitous for the Liberal Democrats to put forward this motion at council when their party in parliament voted against our Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which set out stringent targets backed up by up to £60 billion capital investment - the largest infrastructure programme in water company history.

"The Government has been clear that the volume of sewage being discharged into our waters is completely unacceptable and is committed to tackling it.

"This problem has existed for decades. It is only after Conservatives started putting legislation in place that political opportunists like the Lib Dems and R4U are choosing to use it as a political football."

The Environment Agency has expressed their intention to tackle illegal discharges.


A spokesperson said: "After eight years of work, every storm overflow in England is now monitored, giving us much more information about where and when storm overflow discharges are happening. 

"This increased transparency will allow the Environment Agency to better tackle illegal discharges from storm overflows.

"We are dedicated to investigating those that breach their strict permitting conditions.

"We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. We are also strengthening our regulation by expanding our specialised workforce, increasing compliance checks, and using new data and intelligence tools to inform our work."