Wastewater reaches dozens of beaches after torrential downpours

Wastewater reaches dozens of beaches after torrential downpours

NOTE EDITORIAL PICTURE USE ONLY Activists gather on Fistral Beach, Newquay, as they take part in a national day of action on sewage pollution coordinated by Surfers Against Sewage, one of 12 simultaneous protests against UK water companies Kingdom, demanding an end to sewage pollution.  Picture date: Saturday April 23, 2022. PA Photo.  Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The revelations will reignite anger against water companies (Image: PA)

Swimmers have been told to avoid more than 40 beaches and bathing spots across the UK after heavy rains overwhelmed sewage systems.

Several beautiful places have been hit by ‘storm sewage’, reigniting questions about how sewage can be allowed to reach public waters, and anger against water companies.

Pollution warnings were put in place in England and Wales after downpours hit the country after months of little or no rain.

The south west and south coast of England were the hardest hit, according to data compiled by the environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).

Swimmers are advised against bathing at nine beaches in Sussex, seven in Cornwall, five in Dorset, four in Devon, three on the Isle of Wight and three in Essex.

Warnings have also been put in place in Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and South Wales, as well as two inland swimming locations near Bristol and Minehead in Somerset.

On Tuesday, there was an alert at Spittal near Berwick in Northumberland, although that has since been cleared up.

BNPS.co.uk (01202 558833) Photo: MaxWillcock/BNPS Pictured: Surfers protest against the dumping of sewage on the beach near Bournemouth Pier late last year by swimming with their mouths shut.  Wessex Water's Ruth Barden and Environment Agency manager Ian Withers were also criticized for saying incidents of sewage discharge into the sea had been

Surfers blew up ‘shit storm after calm’ (Image: BNPS)

There has been growing public outrage in recent years at the volume of untreated or partially treated sewage being dumped into UK rivers and coastal waters.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of SAS, tweeted on Tuesday: ‘The shit storm after the calm. Many beaches on the south coast are off limits due to sewage discharges (Southern Water).

An SAS spokeswoman said there were nine other pollution warnings not linked to heavy rain, and urged people visiting the coast to check its online interactive map before swimming.

In July, the Environment Agency said in a report that water company bosses should face jail time for the worst pollution incidents, calling the sector’s performance in 2021 “the worst we’ve seen in years”.

Today, the organization added: ‘The current risk of surface water flooding reinforces the need for strong action by water companies to reduce discharges from storm surges. We are monitoring the current situation and supporting local authorities where necessary.”


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A Southern Water spokesman said: “Yesterday’s thunderstorms brought heavy rain that fell on parched ground and were unable to absorb surface runoff, meaning more rain than usual overwhelmed our network.”

‘This caused some overflows, which are used to protect homes, schools, businesses and hospitals from flooding, spilling excess water into the sea in parts of West Sussex, including Seaford.

“These discharges are very diluted and typically 95 percent of them are rainwater.”

Since then, the company’s chief executive has been challenged to drink the water for a £1,000 bet.

Southern Water claims they are “dedicated to significantly reducing storm surges” and are running innovative pilot schemes to help.

Northumbrian Water made a similar comment, with a spokesman admitting “a brief stormwater release was made from a storm overflow at Spittal near Berwick”.

Adding that the company had invested heavily to counter the problem, with most bathing places having good or excellent ratings, the spokesman said: “Such discharges are mostly rainwater with a small percentage of storm water. residuals that come together because they use the same sewage network.

Anglian Water, which supplies Lincolnshire and also provides sewage services in Southend, also said most of the discharges would have been predominantly rainwater and that it had been investing to counter the problems.

Other water companies in areas where there are sewage alerts have been contacted for comment.

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