Simon Jupp, MP for East Devon writes for this title

We all want healthy seas and rivers. Across our part of Devon, people I talk to are rightly angry at South West Water’s lack of investment. It’s an anger that I share.

The start of the year has been particularly poor for South West Water.

Exmouth has faced three major incidents in a month resulting from failures in South West Water’s infrastructure and lack of investment in the town. They’ve been using tankers to take sewage from damaged pipes to a recently overflowing pumping station. The situation has been completely unacceptable.

Following South West Water’s continued failures in Exmouth, I met with South West Water’s Chief Operating Officer, John Halsall, and the Environment Agency’s Area Director for Devon, Mark Rice, in Exmouth to challenge the water company on their handling of the ongoing incident in the town. I visited Maer Lane Sewage Treatment Works and the site of a damaged pipe in a nearby field. I also met with residents. Despite South West Water’s failures, I want to thank their ground teams and contractors who’ve faced unacceptable abuse.

South West Water previously indicated to customers that the use of tankers would stop on 3rd January as they planned to complete the installation of a replacement temporary sewer pipe. At the time of writing on Monday 8th January, the temporary pipe is finally in action and tankering has stopped. This has undoubtedly taken too long and local residents are fed up, angry and disappointed in South West Water.

During my visit last week, I challenged South West Water on the timescales for a permanent solution and repeated my calls to speed up plans for £38m investment in Exmouth. They can’t take our town for granted again.

As investigations continue into this sorry state of affairs, I am continuing to work with the Environment Agency, Ofwat, and the Water Minister. Every option must be on the table in response, including hefty fines.

This is the first government in history to crack down on sewage spills. As your MP, I have never voted to legalise or allow more sewage to go into our waters. Why would I? I live by the sea in Sidmouth. My constituency office is by the sea in Exmouth. I love where we live.

In a perfect world, we would stop all sewage spills immediately. Sadly, stopping storm overflows – relief valves which are meant to only be used when the sewerage system is at risk of being overwhelmed – tomorrow would lead to sewage backing up into people's homes and streets. People who tell you otherwise and claim your bills wouldn’t rise astronomically to fix it, are not being straight with you.

I voted for a proper plan – paid for by the water companies. I voted for legally binding duties on water companies through the Conservative government’s Environment Act 2021 to reduce discharges from every single storm overflow and eliminate all ecological harm.

We also now have the data to hold water companies to account. In 2016, the proportion of storm overflows monitored across the network was 5%. This government required all water companies to fit monitors to storm overflows by the end of 2023, which was achieved. Now, Ministers are forcing water companies to make data about spills from storm overflows available to the public as they happen. I voted for that, too.

  Following a debate I secured in Parliament last year, South West Water announced a new multi-million-pound package to upgrade Sidmouth and Tipton St John’s sewer system, and reduce phosphorus pollution at Axminster Kilmington waste water treatment works. I’m trying to secure another debate in Parliament to continue my calls for investment across East Devon, and push for Sidmouth and Tipton’s investment to be sped up.

East Devon residents in our beautiful coastal communities including Exmouth, Sidmouth, Seaton, Budleigh Salterton and Beer pay the highest sewerage bills in the country. We deserve better from South West Water.