Pollution campaigner wins European court victory

Bob Latimer on Whitburn Beach
Bob Latimer on Whitburn Beach
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A POLLUTION whistleblower has won a European court victory after a 12-year fight to expose the discharge of untreated sewage off the coast.

Environmental campaigner Bob Latimer today told of his delight at the European Court of Justice’s decision against the UK Government for not complying with EU environmental legislation and allowing sewage to be discharged into the North Sea from Whitburn.

Mr Latimer, owner of Latimer’s seafood deli in Whitburn, first raised his concerns more than a decade ago.

Now he is demanding an inquiry to ensure “the beach is never polluted again.”

Meanwhile, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has expressed disappointment at the judgment but pledged there would be “major improvements” to sewage and water treatment systems.

Mr Latimer said: “This is a surprising and totally pleasing result with real implications for both our area and other coastal towns and their beaches.

“Combined sewage overflows – which carry both storm water and sewage – are being used everywhere to avoid the cost of properly treating sewage and this judgement shows that this is disobeying the terms of the Waste Water Directive.

“The reality is that we have constant sewage debris on our beach because of untreated sewage is spilling both from the Whitburn overflow pipe and from the overflows into the River Wear.

“I want our beach and sea to be safe for my grandchildren to play on and for all our beach users to never see sewage debris again. The EU decision says that this must be done.

“All sewage must go for treatment and here at Whitburn, we have the structure in place which can be improved to ensure this.”

Stephen Hughes, Labour’s North East MEP, took up the issue after being approached by Mr Latimer in 2000.

He said: “Bob Latimer and his small band of supporters should be rightly proud of this victory. Without his tenacity and commitment to truth and justice, this result would not have been possible.

“The people of the North East deserve beaches free of sewage. For too long water companies have threatened that bills will be increased if they were made to comply with waste water legislation.”

A Defra spokesperson said: “We are disappointed by the court’s findings as we are already working on major improvements to sewage and treatment systems. We will study the judgement carefully to ensure we solve all of the breaches.”

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