Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Newspaper column 1 June 2016 - Protecting our waves

Our constituency has two beautiful coasts, and some of the best beaches in the country. Many people make their living, either directly or indirectly, from the sea and many of us enjoy the coast in a number of recreational ways. And of course the surfing community is one of the fastest growing parts of our local life and economy.

Therefore, I was delighted, soon after my election just over a year ago, to be elected as the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group “Protect our Waves”.  The Protect Our Waves APPG was launched in October 2014 and looks to give a voice to the surfing community and other sea users to address the most urgent environmental issues highlighted by the Protect Our Waves petition, namely marine litter, recreational bathing water quality and coastal development.

Last week in Westminster I chaired the group’s latest meeting which focused on water quality and the impact of combined sewer overflows (CSOs).  Approximately 70% of the UK’s sewers are combined, meaning they take sewage and grey water from homes and businesses as well as rainwater runoff from hard surfaces such as roads and roofs. This is a major issue here in Cornwall when during periods of heavy rain these combined sewers regularly reach maximum capacity and water companies are forced to discharge a mixture of untreated sewage and stormwater directly into the sea. 

During the meeting we heard first-hand from Cornish charity Surfers Against Sewage, experts representing the scientific community, the shellfish industry, the water sports sector and from a young water user who recently fell seriously ill after bathing in contaminated water.  Each presenter gave a compelling account of the need for tighter regulations governing combined sewer overflows.

I am pleased that after hearing this evidence, the Protect Our Waves APPG decided to support Surfers Against Sewage and the Sewage Free Seas call for strict legal limits of a maximum of 3 spills from sewage systems into bathing water per bathing season and no more than 10 annually impacting any single  body of bathing water. We will be writing to the Environment Agency, urging them to take action.

The account given by a thirteen-year-old surfer from Perranporth was particularly powerful.  She described the severe sickness that she experienced as a result of surfing in the sea shortly after a CSO.   Sewage is a local issue; the sewage that is discharged into the sea around Cornwall, comes from Cornish sewers. 

So we all have a part to play to protect our waves. As the holiday season gets into full swing this half term, I urge you to consider the “Think before you flush” campaign.  In 2014 Sewage Related Debris was thought to be responsible for 253,000 blockages in the UK’s sewer system leading to clean up costs in excess of £80 million.  Your actions can help to protect the sewerage infrastructure, sewage system capacity and the marine environment from sewage & plastic pollution.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and seek to make a real difference to the lives of everyone who needs help and support in any way.  If there is any issue that we can help you with then please contact us on either 01726 829379 or on