Mersea Island oyster farmer participates in legal tender over sewer leak

Tom Howard

Tom Haward’s family oyster business has been in business for 253 years

An eighth-generation oyster farmer has joined a legislative proposal to toughen government policy towards water companies that discharge sewage into the sea.

Based in Mersea Island, Essex, family business Richard Haward Oysters has been in business for 253 years.

“If the water companies are not held to account, the industry could perish,” said Tom Haward, chief operating officer.

Anglian Water said it has invested more than £200m to reduce leaks in the east of England.

Tom Howard

Mr Haward says he wants to “stand up” for the fishing industry

Untreated sewage is discharged into coastal waters by storm overflows designed to prevent sewers from being overloaded in an emergency.

However, the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that their use has increased in recent years as climate change causes more precipitation and water infrastructure cannot keep up with population growth.

The government has given water companies time to invest in sewage by 2050 and improve it to prevent sewers from overflowing into British waterways and coastlines.

A request for judicial review has been requested by Mr. Haward, the Marine Conservation Society, activist Hugo Tagholm, and the Good Law Project.

The group hopes to force the government to impose tighter deadlines on water companies to significantly reduce the use of storm floods and expand protection for coastal waters.

Oysters West Mersea

Mr Haward said water companies weren’t acting fast enough

While Mr. Haward’s business was not adversely affected by the sewers, he said it was important to “get up and shout about things like that”.

“Our oysters can be safely eaten and the water is nice and clean.”

“But it’s about preempting it before it becomes a problem, on the contrary, it overwhelms us and then it’s too late to do anything about it.”

Mr. Haward said he wanted to protect not just his family’s business, but the industry as a whole.

The industry has a legacy,” he said.

“England is famous for that, Mersea is very famous for that and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

West Mersea

Mr. Haward said the business and investments of water companies should happen “immediately” rather than in the coming years.

Mr Haward said there was “a renaissance in oyster eaters in the UK” and so the industry could have a “fantastic future”.

“So it’s really important that we protect it and protect it for its future,” he said.

Defra declined to comment on the legal proposal.

A spokesperson for Anglian Water said: “We fully agree that Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) are history, especially as our climate change and extreme weather conditions become more common.

“But until they are destroyed, they act as an essential safety valve in old sewer systems to protect homes and businesses from flooding during heavy rains.”

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