Water campaigner fights on after ruling

SEWAGE CONCERNS: Bob Latimer on Whitburn Beach.

SEWAGE CONCERNS: Bob Latimer on Whitburn Beach.

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AN environmental campaigner has vowed to fight on despite a setback in his legal challenge over claims raw sewage is being dumped into the sea.

The European Commission took the UK to the European Court of Justice in a “test case” against the use of Combined Sewer Overflow pipes (CSOs) at Whitburn Beach.

But Northumbrian Water, which controls the CSOs, said it is complying with industry regulations.

CSOs are meant to operate only in times of severe rainfall, although in Whitburn it empties directly into the sea.

They are designed to relieve pressure on the sewer system when it fills with rainfall and to prevent flooding.

But campaigner Bob Latimer, from Whitburn, claimed there were occasions when untreated waste water and sewage are discharged into the sea where it pollutes the water and can wash up on nearby beaches.

The European Commission said untreated waste water was being allowed to spill “too frequently and in excessive quantities” at Whitburn beach, which, it said, was “a threat to human health”.

As a result, it took the UK Government to the European Court of Justice, which examined the 2010 case.

Although a result was not be expected for several years, the advocate general, who assists the court’s judges, has now announced that the Commission had “failed to establish the existence of a failure to fulfil an obligation in relation to the Whitburn collecting system” and therefore the first part of the action could not succeed.

It is understood the comments, made as part of a preliminary report which will go before judges, are often used as a basis for the final outcome of a case, which is expected in the coming weeks.

However, Mr Latimer, 68, today pledged to continue the battle and remains hopeful of success.

“I think he has misread the situation and he does not understand what is going on,” he said. “What he is basically saying is that the cost to put it right would be too much. It would cost a fortune to improve the environent. But a cost to who?

“If you look at this, the public have paid for this system and it clearly doesn’t work as it is supposed to do. You only have to look at the beaches to see that and I hope the judges understand it.”

A spokesman for Defra declined to comment on the case until it was complete.

A spokesman for Northumbrian Water said: “This is a preliminary opinion by the advocate general. It will now be considered by the other judges who will then determine the outcome of the case.”