Campaigners urge government to protect River Trent after mounds of raw sewage

ITV News Central Correspondent Rajiv Popat has been speaking with campaigners about severe environmental damage to the River Trent

Sewage being dumped into the River Trent is causing severe environmental damage, according to campaigners.

Currently, water companies are legally allowed to release raw sewage into waterways after extreme weather such as heavy rain.

In 2021, almost 2,400 sewage was dumped in the Trent.

Campaigners now want the government to do more to keep waterways clean, with some saying if people knew what was in the water they'd stop visiting green watery area.

The Burton Trent Partnership campaigns for cleaner, safer and healthier waterways.

John Anderson, head of the group, told ITV News Central he has serious concerns about raw sewage being pumped into the river.

Speaking to ITV News Central he said the river contains "tampons, face wipes, bleach, and the very obvious things people put down the toilet.

"All of this goes down the river and there's an awful smell around these overflows and larges pieces of these foam buildup which look almost like polystyrene, but are brown in colour.

"If you break one of these up with a stick you can find items like tampons - it really is disgusting."

Mr Anderson blames the government for not using money already provided to the Environment Agency to improve the situation.

Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was asked why he thinks it's okay for water companies to continue polluting rivers.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the PM said the Environment Agency has been given more powers of enforcement to tackle the situation.

He added that a clear plan is in place to increase investment and monetary of sewage overflows.

'Water quality and the ecological health of rivers must improve'

Gail Pickles, River Protection Lead at Severn Trent said, "We understand why people feel let down by water companies when it comes to rivers, we know what needs to be done to make it right and we’re doing it.

"We’re delivering an industry-leading plan that includes bold commitments, such as by 2030 our operations will cause no harm to rivers. 

"In the first year of this plan, we’ve reduced our impact by a third, but we know there’s more to do, which is why we’re continuing to invest hundreds of millions of pounds into making rivers the healthiest they can be."

Some campaigners say walkers, kayakers and anglers would stop coming to the river if they knew what was in it. Credit: ITV News Central

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Environment Agency said: "The water quality and the ecological health of rivers must improve.

"The main sources of pollution are agriculture and the water industry and there is a growing threat from plastics and forever chemicals.

"The water companies have rightly been condemned by government, campaigners and the public for allowing far too many sewage spills into rivers, and as the environmental regulator, we are holding the industry to account on a scale never done before.

"We have now completed our investigation into the brown discolouration in the River Trent in Burton-upon-Trent.

"We have identified the source as silt from a nearby quarry rather than sewage discharges and are working with the source to install mitigation measures to prevent a reoccurrence and are taking the appropriate enforcement action."

The Environment Agency is also urging people to contact them if they have any environmental concerns.

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