Bathing Water Status welcomed but sewage figures slammed

13 May 2024

The River Tone through Taunton’s French Weir Park has been officially designated with Bathing Water Status today (Monday).

One of the leading figures behind the application has welcomed the news but slammed new statistics on sewage discharges into local rivers.

A total of 27 new designated sites will now receive regular water monitoring by the Environment Agency.

The Friends of French Weir Park are over the moon with the news that our stretch of the River Tone is to be granted Designated Bathing Water Status: "We look forward to continuing to support both our local community and the wild swimming community to enjoy this beautiful stretch of water."

However, new figures analysing sewage dumped in council areas have revealed that sewage was dumped into waterways in Somerset West and Taunton Deane for 31,526 hours in 2023.

The analysis is based on official data from the Environment Agency, compiled by the House of Commons Library for the Liberal Democrats. It shows sewage was dumped into local rivers on 3,350 separate occasions in 2023.

This is a shocking 186% rise in the duration of sewage spills compared to the previous year.

Gideon Amos, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Taunton and Wellington, said: “I'm delighted that – following the application I made, with support of Friends of French Weir Park – the new Bathing Water Status has been designated today.

“But this latest information on sewage discharges shows it's more important than ever to get action to clean up our rivers.

“Today’s designation means the river here in Taunton will be measured and monitored and results made public for the first time – if it’s not good enough, measures will be required of the water companies to clean it up”.

“The Liberal Democrats first began the campaign to get sewage out of our rivers and seas in the 1990s.

“Handing over water to private shareholders was never the right thing to do and it’s disgusting that these companies pumped filthy sewage into our waterways so many times last year.

“On doorstep after doorstep, people in Taunton and Wellington tell me they want a government that will protect our environment.

“They’re furious that filthy sewage has been pumped into their rivers and waterways - and want to send this Conservative government a strong message that our planet matters.

“Come the General Election, Liberal Democrats will be campaigning hard against this national scandal which has been allowed to take hold while the Conservative Government has sat on its hands and looked the other way.”

“Our Liberal Democrat solution would bring in a tougher water regulator, would end bonuses going to the bosses of these polluting companies and put public interest companies in their place with a duty to put the environment ahead of the profits they’re taking out of the service.”

The application for Bathing Water Status in French Weir Park was supported by over 300 people who went swimming in the Tone last summer.

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