More than 130 sewage leaks in government buildings over last year, new data shows

The majority of the leaks took place at Ministry of Defence buildings. Credit: PA

More than 130 sewage leaks have sprung up in government buildings over the last year, new data has revealed.

The majority of the 138 leaks took place at Ministry of Defence buildings, with 102 incidents at sites including at Royal Naval airbase Culdrose, Cornwall and RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire.

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the information through written questions to ministers, suggested civil servants were suffering sewage misery comparable with that faced by seaside swimmers across the nation.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said: “Westminster has long been known for its many leaks, but these latest sewage revelations make for unpleasant reading.

“This is another reminder of just how badly the government has failed to tackle the sewage being pumped into our rivers, lakes and coastlines.

“Water firms have repeatedly got away with polluting our treasured wildlife while sealing off beaches from the public.

“Whether it’s a government building or Blue Flag beach, I think it’s time ministers got a grip of sewage.”

Alongside the 102 leaks in the MoD estate, the Department for Work and Pensions recorded 25 minor leaks across its estate, which ministers said were “generally relating to individual toilets and blocked pipes”.

But it said there were no major leaks which had needed to be reported to water authorities.

Four small-scale leaks occurred in buildings under the Cabinet Office’s stewardship, with two leaks in London and another two in York.

The Cabinet Office also manages the prime minister’s office, but said no leaks had occurred there in the last 12 months.

Several departments including the Department for Health and Social Care, and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recorded no sewage leaks in their estate over the last year.

Others including the Home Office and Ministry of Justice did not provide the information requested by the Lib Dems, citing costs.

Four small leaks were recorded across the Cabinet Office's sites. Credit: PA

The Times newspaper has meanwhile reported Legionella bacteria was recently discovered at an HMRC building in Liverpool and dealt with, and several floors of Department for Energy Security and Net Zero in London were closed last month for deep cleaning after an insect infestation.

Asked by Sky News whether the leaks meant government buildings were unsafe for civil servants, health minister Neil O’Brien said: “It is safe for them to get back to work. We have very high standards.

“I have worked in lots of different government departments and the buildings are held to a high standard, but we do have a very cautious approach and that is why we monitor all these things. We would never expect anyone to work in an unsafe environment.

“I work in the same environment and we all want the same things.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We manage a large, complex property estate which has over 140,000 buildings, many of which are of historical importance.

“As it is always the case with managing any large property portfolio, issues do arise with maintenance.

“That’s why we have invested £56 million in improving and maintaining buildings, including fitting new and greener boilers and windows and making health and safety improvements.”

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