IAN Liddell-Grainger is calling for legislation to force water companies to speed up improvements in sewage discharge quality to reduce the polluting toll on the county’s waterways.
The MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset says much of the damage that’s being caused to national sites such as the Somerset Levels could and should have been avoided.
And he says if the water companies are not prepared to act more rapidly on a voluntary basis then they need to be made to.
Sewage-related phosphate levels in rivers and water courses on the internationally-protected Somerset wetland have now increased to a point where scientists are warning of serious damage to wildlife, including fish and invertebrates.
Algal blooms are killing life in the waterways and imperilling their protected status to a point where Natural England has effectively placed a virtual embargo on all but phosphate neutral housing developments.
Meanwhile the leaders of all four Somerset district councils and the county council have called on the Government to work with them to help unlock much- needed housing development.
They say the issue requires urgent attention if they and other affected authorities are going to be able to help address the national housing crisis.
Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said the current situation on the Levels had been allowed to develop as a result of Wessex Water ‘losing its grip’.
He said: “The company has been fully aware of the huge new housing developments that have been going on around Taunton and Bridgwater and it clearly understood that these would lead to increased levels of discharges.”
“Yet only recently, it seems, has decided to start doing something about them and meanwhile we have been left in the embarrassing situation of having a major RAMSAR site whose continued status is now under huge threat.
“Water companies are not exactly flavour of the month, what with the record fines imposed on Southern Water for massive illegal sewage discharges but in my book standing by and watching a horrific situation such as the current one in Somerset develop insidiously is just as great a failing.
“Clearly if water companies are not going to voluntarily take steps to clean up the mess their sewage works are creating all over the countryside then they will have to be forced to via legislation.”