Thousands of alerts regarding the discharge of sewage into waterways are issued in a single year as incidents increase by 87%
- Wastewater discharge into rivers and seas by water companies increased 87% last year
- There were 5,500 sewer alerts in 2020, up from 2,941 the previous year
- Surfers Against Sewage campaign group criticizes ‘shocking and scandalous’ statistics
- Every sixth day of the official bathing season is considered “impossible to swim” due to sewage
Incidents of sewage dumping into rivers and seas by water companies rose 87 percent last year – an increase called “shocking and scandalous” by activists.
In total, companies issued more than 5,500 wastewater discharge alerts last year, up from 2,941 the previous year.
One in six days of the official bathing season has been made “impossible to swim” due to sewage near beaches and other coastal areas, according to the report by environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage.
Swimming season is when designated beaches and lakes are monitored during the summer months by the Environment Agency for water quality standards.
A wing surfer takes advantage of the strong winds as they surf in the sea off Hayling Island in Hampshire
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage, said: “The findings of our report are shocking and outrageous, but by no means unexpected.
“On many occasions, governments have expressed their concern about the pollution of rivers and seas. Loopholes in laws and systematically funded regulators have left the water companies rampant. ‘
He added: “We need the water companies to clean up their action and embark on a decade of change to ensure that our rivers and coasts thrive again.”
Last month, the government pledged to enshrine in law the obligation “to ensure that water companies provide a progressive reduction in the harmful effects of discharges from storm overflows” – after 22 MPs Conservatives rebelled against an amendment making these cuts voluntary.
Surfers Against Sewage uses wastewater discharge notifications from water companies to issue real-time alerts to alert swimmers, surfers, paddleboarders and kayakers.
Its annual water quality report says the 3,328 alerts issued during last year’s summer bathing season were up from the 2020 figure of 1,195.
Surfers Against Sewage uses wastewater discharge notifications from water companies to issue real-time alerts to notify swimmers, surfers, paddleboarders and kayakers
Part of the increase is due to more notifications and more locations provided by water companies.
Southern Water, which serves the stretch of coast from Hampshire to Kent, had the worst score for the total number of overflow spills, according to the report.
Some 6,656 bathing days, or 16% of the total, were lost during the official bathing season.
The association also collects health reports from water users, with 286 illness reports last year, 124 more cases from the previous year.