LIBERAL Democrat MP Richard Foord has tabled a bill in Parliament to give the Environment Agency more responsibility and new powers to improve reporting on sewage discharges.

Responsibility for collecting data on sewage discharges has rested since 2009 with water companies after the Government offloaded the cost of collecting the information.

However, it meant the companies were the only organisations able to properly gather data and report on findings in relation to sewage discharges.

Data collection and assessment has been ‘in-house’ with little oversight by Government or environmental regulators, leading to claims the companies were ‘marking their own homework’ as the ‘true’ scale of sewage discharges was unclear.

South West Water last year alone dumped raw sewage into Devon’s rivers and onto the local coastline for hundreds of thousands of hours.

Now, Mr Foord, who currently represents Culm Valley communities but is switching to the new Honiton and Sidmouth constituency for the next General Election, has tabled a Bill to place a legal responsibility on the Environment Agency to check data collected by water companies and offer its own assessment of the situation.

It will also include duties for the Government regulator to expand the testing regime.

The Bill could be debated next February when Mr Foord hopes it will force the Government to put more focus on tackling the ongoing sewage scandal which has been hurting coastal communities as well as further exposing some ‘sharp practices’ of the water companies.

Mr Foord said: “The current water regulators, Ofwat and the Environment Agency, are clearly not fit for purpose.

“They lack the powers to properly hold water companies to account and even to properly scrutinise water companies’ actions.

“Last year, South West Water allowed millions of litres of water to be lost due to leaky pipes and received a one star rating from the Environment Agency, yet they still paid out millions in bonuses and dividends.

“This is simply scandalous.

“It cannot be right that the data on sewage spills is collected privately by water companies and then assessed ‘in-house’.

“This leaves water bosses to effectively mark their own homework and keeps the rest of us in the dark about the true scale of the crisis.

“We need to beef-up our regulators by giving them a legal duty to assess this information and offer their own reporting.

“Since the Government has failed to take this crisis seriously and act, I have now taken matters into my own hands.

“This way, we will get a clear picture of what is going on and will be able to hold these firms to account for poisoning our rivers and beaches.

“I hope MPs from all parties will get behind this push and back my Bill so we can end this sewage scandal and protect our precious natural environment which brings so many to our part of the world.”