Taskforce to tackle storm overflows after flooding in north-west Norfolk
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
Sewage bubbling up from manhole covers is a situation "nobody wants to see repeated", parliament has been told.
North West Norfolk MP James Wild raised the issue of sewage in a debate in the House of Commons last week, following flooding in villages including the Burnham and North and South Creake earlier this year.
Addressing Rebecca Pow, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, Mr Wild said: "Things got so bad that foul water had to be pumped into one of our precious chalk streams, so will the minister ensure that the Environment Agency (EA) holds Anglian Water to account so that it puts in place plans and investment to ensure that that does not happen again?"
Ms Pow said tackling the harm sewer overflows could do to rivers, particularly chalk streams, was a "top priority" for the government.
She said: "That is a scenario that nobody wants to see repeated. That is why we established a storm overflows taskforce, made up of the government, the water industry, regulators and environmental groups, which has set a long-term goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows.
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"The group is considering the problems caused by infiltration and last month we announced plans to introduce legislation to address these things."
Anglian Water said in response that the region had seen its second wettest winter since 1910, which, along with record high groundwater levels, led to the sewers becoming inundated.
A spokesman said: "This excess water is able to enter the sewerage system through manholes and privately owned pipes that connect properties to the main sewer network, and isn’t something we can prevent under the extreme conditions we have recently seen."
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Anglian Water got the EA's permission to install pumps to relieve the network and prevent flooding.
The spokesman added: "We are committed to protecting the environment and reducing the risk of flooding for our customers. Investment in the sewerage network is by necessity an on-going process as we respond to growth and climatic change.
"The number of customers at risk from flooding due to overloaded sewers has almost halved in the last five years, because of water company investment. Anglian Water alone has invested £357m on this since the water industry was privatised in 1989."