Belgium joins France in warning over UK sewage in North Sea

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Belgium wants London to give explanations over raw sewage dumped in the English Channel and North Sea, joining France in raising concerns over the potential threat to health and marine life.

“Under no circumstances should the discharge have an impact on the waters or marine environment of [EU] member states,” Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgium’s minister in charge of the North Sea, told POLITICO on Saturday.

“I have asked my services to look into this further and to contact the relevant U.K. administrations about this.”

Van Quickenborne added that although the U.K. is no longer bound by EU environmental regulations as a consequence of Brexit, it has to take the necessary measures to limit the impact of sewage leaks on the marine environment.

The Belgian minister’s reaction echoes calls to the European Commission for legal and political action from MEPs of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party. They warn that in the short term, the leaks could damage bathing waters on the French coast and harm marine biodiversity.

Belgium’s North Sea minister said that the dumping so far hasn’t had an impact on Belgian waters.

“For the moment, there is indeed no reason to worry,” Van Quickenborne said, before emphasizing that the competent Belgian services will contact U.K. services in order to get further details.

The complaints come after pollution warnings were issued over the summer for 50 beaches in England and Wales after heavy rain caused sewage overflow to be diverted from overloaded drains into rivers and the sea.