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Sewage Has Europeans Reminding UK It’s Not a ‘Lawless Zone’

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- European lawmakers are calling on the European Union to help urge the UK to stop polluting the English Channel with sewage spills that are threatening fish and humans.

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“Just because the United Kingdom has left the European Union does not mean that it is now in a lawless zone,” Stephanie Yon-Courtin, a member of the European Parliament who serves on the fisheries committee, said in an interview by email. “The English Channel should not be considered as a septic tank.”

Yon-Courtin and two other French members of the European Parliament, Pierre Karleskind and Nathalie Loiseau, wrote to EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius asking the EU’s executive arm to use “political and legal means” to end the sewage discharges.

“This risk cannot be dismissed,” Yon-Courtin said. “Just look at the many British beaches that have been administratively closed this summer due to the deterioration of water quality.”

Read more: Swimmers Are Having to Avoid Sewage on UK Beaches -- Here’s Why

Human waste was released into the sea at several beach resorts after recent storms, just weeks after the UK Environment Agency said England’s water companies’ environment performance was “the worst we have seen for years.”

Yon-Courtin cited the Environment Agency, which estimated more than 1.2 million spills had occurred in England and Wales between 2016 and 2021. Meanwhile, according to France’s environment agency, only 14% of British waters were classified as ecologically sound in 2020.

The French lawmakers said that since Brexit, the UK has exempted itself from its environmental requirements. While remaining a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and party to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, the UK has chosen to revise downwards its water quality criteria.

Read more: UK Water Firms Struggling With Drought Set to Tap Private Debt

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