Sewage pollution in the River Mole at Esher trebles in a year

27 Mar 2024

New figures released by the Environment Agency show that Thames Water  discharged sewage into the River Mole a staggering 350 times in 2023. A quarter of these discharges occurred at just one site - at Esher - where the sewage outflow was in operation for three times as many hours as in 2022.

Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to treat the sewage crisis as a national emergency.

Environment Agency data reveals that sewage was pumped into the River Mole by Thames Water 350 times in 2023. The Esher storm overflow discharged sewage into the river 87 times - 25% of the total discharges into the Mole - with sewage flowing at this one site for 1071 hours in 2023, compared to 300 hours in 2022. The outflow was used just 29 times in the previous year. Any outflow that has more than 60 discharges a year should prompt an Environment Agency investigation.

Overall, the amount of sewage pumped into the Mole by Thames Water increased by over 50%, from 3,111 hours to 4,786.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Esher and Walton, Monica Harding has called for a ban on sewage discharges in protected waters, as well as a ban on water company executives being paid multi-million pound bonuses. 

The Environment Agency data released on Wednesday 27 March has revealed raw sewage was spilled into English rivers and seas for more than 3.6 million hours last year – up 101% on the previous year.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said the scandal should be treated as an environmental national emergency: “Only by treating the sewage scandal with the urgency it demands can we save our rivers and beaches for future generations to enjoy. Rishi Sunak and the Conservative party have failed to listen and as a result sewage spills are increasing, our precious countryside is being destroyed and swimmers are falling sick.”

Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Esher and Walton Monica Harding said: “The River Mole runs through the heart of Esher and Walton and is much-loved by local residents. Local people are already furious that our swimming locations and precious wildlife habitats have become poisoned. Instead of working to improve the situation, Thames Water has made it three times worse. This data shows that this stretch of the Mole is now one of the most polluted parts of a river that was already one of the most polluted in England. 

“This new Environment Agency data - 1071 hours, or over 44 days’ worth, of sewage pumped into the Mole at just this one site in Esher last year - shows how little the Government care. Thames Water know they can get away with this environmental vandalism without consequence.

“It is time Ministers got tough with Thames Water. They are raking in massive profits while destroying the environment. Our local MP has done nothing to stand up for his local community or to protect our local environment. He has consistently voted against measures that would hold the water industry to account. Frankly, the whole thing stinks.

“I am calling for tougher action to stop sewage being dumped in local waterways, including replacing OfWat with a regulator that has real teeth and a ban on bonuses for water company fat cats. I will continue my campaign to save the river Mole and our other local waterways from sewage pollution. I know local communities across the area are demanding action and that this scandal finally ends.”



Environment Agency data for 2023 and 2022 can be found here.

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