East Sussex MP's reasoning for sewage dumps shown to be false in latest research
Data analysed by consultancy Arup and campaigners Windrush Against Sewage Pollution states that less then 12 per cent of the sewage network in England and Wales was built before the 19th century, with approximately a fifth constructed during the 1960s and 1970s.
The findings undermine Conservative MP Maria Caulfield's claims that outflows of contaminated water onto the East Sussex coastline is a result of infrastructure dating back to the Victorian times.
Professor Peter Hammond, data researcher for Wasp and former professor of computational biology at University College London, told the Financial Times: “Victorian sewers constitute a minor proportion of the sewer network and cannot be blamed for the toxic mix of untreated human waste and road surface run-off polluting our inland and coastal waters.
"The disparity of infrastructure investment before and since privatisation must surely bear the brunt of blame.”
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Southern Water have come under heavy criticism for their dumping of raw sewage at East Sussex beaches such as Seaford Head West, near Splash Point, the most notable being in August of last year.
James MacCleary, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Lewes, says it is time the Conservative government stop ‘turning a blind eye’ to the water firm's failure to invest in new wastewater treatments.
Mr MacCleary said: "We're all getting tired of hearing the same old excuses from Maria Caulfield and her friends at Southern Water. The truth is that this is not about the Victorians or scaremongering about toilets backing up. It is about Southern Water failing to invest in new wastewater treatment facilities and upgrades to our sewerage network and the Conservatives turning a blind eye to it.
"We must be far more ambitious. We need an immediate windfall tax on water companies' profits to invest in urgent improvements to our sewerage network. We should radically alter the model under which public utilities like water companies work to transform them into public benefit companies that focus on providing a good service to the public rather than profits for investors.
"Until we see the back of this discredited Conservative government we will just hear more excuses on behalf of the water companies and no real action to stop raw sewage being dumped on a regular basis."
In response, Ms Caulfield claimed the government's £56 billion programme to replace the old water-waste systems will end the use of sewage outflows in this country.
The Tory MP said: “This is the first Government ever to introduce mandatory monitoring of our sewage system so that we now know the extent of the problem. When we came into Government only 7% of discharge outflows were monitored and we are now close to 100%.
"With our roll out now of the £56 billion programmes to replace the old sewage systems and decouple rainfall from sewage we will end the use of sewage outflows once and for all. In our area Southern Water will be starting their programme this autumn and will be setting out where the works will begin shortly.”