Time to Stop Sewage Polluting the Ouseburn

Sign Our Petition to Stop Sewage Pollution in the Ouseburn

Untreated sewage flows into the Ouseburn after heavy rainfall. A scientific study of the water in Jesmond Dene found faecal contamination 100 times greater than safe bathing levels. It's time to stop this scandal.

The Ouseburn starts to the north of Newcastle, near the airport, and runs through Kingston Park, Fawdon, Gosforth, Jesmond Dene, Heaton and the Ouseburn Valley, entering the Tyne just east of the city centre. Recent research has shown it is heavily polluted, particularly after heavy rain, and the Liberal Democrats have launched a campaign to clean it up.

You can find out much more about the issue below AND sign our petition at the bottom of the page.

Pollution along the Ouseburn

A major cause of the pollution in the Ouseburn is untreated sewage, which is allowed to enter the river during heavy rainfall from a series of sewage outfall pipes along the length of the river, controlled by Northumbrian Water. The latest figures indicate there were 228 incidents in 2022 when raw sewage was discharged - leading to over 910 million litres of contaminated water running down the river.

You can find out the locations of the outfall pipes and these pollution incidents by visiting The Rivers Trust website.

A research study by scientists at Newcastle University, conducted during 2021 in Jesmond Dene and published last year, found that water discharged from storm overflows contained a high concentration of faecal bacteria – about one hundred times higher than the acceptable standard for bathing water. One of the authors also published a guide on how to spot the signs of pollution.

Playing in the water can lead to illness

Many people enjoy walking and relaxing along the Ouseburn, particularly in Jesmond Dene, and it is not unusual to see children and dogs paddling in the water on warm days – but they risk contracting diarrhoea or another gastrointestinal disease. Others say that they avoid sitting or walking close to the river in hot weather due to the stench of sewage.

Long term plans but action needed now

Led by the Reece Foundation, who funded the research by Newcastle University, there are long term plans to develop The Ouseburn Way as a major feature for recreation and travel through the city, but the immediate priority is to stop the sewage pollution.

However, the published investment plans by Northumbrian Water for 2025-2030 will only see wastewater spills reduced by 1/5th and around a 30% reduction in all pollutions across the region.

The Environment Agency is not required to regularly test the water in the Ouseburn during the summer, as it does not have bathing water status. Following pressure from the Liberal Democrats, the Government announced 27 new bathing sites across England in February 2024, but sites like the Ouseburn are not covered. The Liberal Democrats environment spokesperson, Tim Farron MP, who lived near the Ouseburn when he studied in Newcastle, said; “This is yet another half-baked announcement, which does not ban water companies from dumping sewage into bathing water”.  

Petition to clean up the Ouseburn

Commenting on the local campaign to reduce pollution in the Ouseburn, Liberal Democrats Parliamentary spokesperson Mark Ridyard said: “We aim to put pressure on the Council to warn residents of the current dangers of playing in the Ouseburn; to press the Government and the Environment Agency to monitor water quality in real time; and for Northumbrian Water to invest in sustainable drainage schemes to better manage heavy rainfall and to end the practice of discharging untreated sewage into the river.”

You can support our campaign by signing our petition below:

Mark Ridyard in front of a sewage outfall pipe into the Ouseburn
Mark Ridyard stands beside the Blue Bell Inn sewage outfall into the Ouseburn

Stop Polluting the Ouseburn

We, the undersigned, call on Newcastle City Council to work with the Environment Agency, Northumbrian Water and other agencies to take immediate action to end sewage overflow pollution into the Ouseburn along the length of the river. In particular, we call on the Council to lobby the Government for a change in the Bathing Water regulations, to ensure that the Environment Agency is required to test water quality on a regular basis during summer months and to alert the public when water quality is unsafe. In the meantime, we call on the Council to erect warning signs in public spaces like Jesmond Dene, warning of the dangers of paddling or playing in or near the water.

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We will include your name and address/postcode when submitting and sharing the petition with Newcastle City Council.

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