Sandra Laville, in the Guardian, in an exclusive report on how public health and environment is at risk as water companies overuse emergency overflows. November 2020.
Water companies discharged raw sewage into bathing water beaches almost 3,000 times in the past year, polluting the environment and risking public health, new analysis shows.
The discharges took place all over England and Wales, including at some of the most popular beaches.
The study by Surfers Against Sewage, which publishes data on sewage releases as they occur, examines the notifications by water companies of effluent discharges over 12 months.
The report says one company, Southern Water, failed to issue notices of when it discharged sewage at a number of popular beaches, leaving the public at risk.
“Their failure to provide this information has put thousands of water users at risk,” the SAS report claimed. It said that more than 20% of reports from swimmers, surfers and paddlers of illness after using the sea came from locations within Southern Water’s catchment. Seven reports came from Hove Lawns beach in Brighton alone.
“These illnesses could have been prevented if discharge notifications had been issued,” the report said.
It estimates that 6% of swimming days were lost in bathing waters in 2020 because of sewage discharges into seas in England and Wales.Advertisement
Under EU regulations that have rolled over into UK law since Brexit, countries must monitor and assess bathing water for faecal bacteria and inform the public about bathing water quality and beach management through the so-called bathing water profiles – poor, sufficient, good or excellent – or notices banning or advising against bathing.
The discharges into UK bathing waters come from combined sewer overflows (CSOs) – emergency infrastructure designed to release raw sewage and wastewater after extreme rainfall to release pressure in the system.
However the report said: “CSOs are being used outside these rainfall periods, resulting in environmental damage and increased risk to water users.”