Sewage is flooding dozens of beaches in England and Wales after heavy rain

Hundreds of people bathed in this river near Bath last weekend

Hundreds of people bathed in this river near Bath last weekend

Pollution warnings have been put in place for dozens of beaches in England and Wales after raw sewage was dumped into the sea around the coast.

Official figures show there have been several evacuations since Monday, which Southern Water says are to protect homes and businesses.

The pollution follows a period of heavy rainfall in southern England, following a spell of extremely dry weather.

Warnings from the Safer Seas and Rivers service are based on data from water companies.

The service is run by the charity Surfers Against Sewage.

Many of the polluted beaches are popular resorts and include:

  • Bognor Regis, West Sussex

  • Newquay, Cornwall

  • East Looe, Cornwall

  • Heacham, Norfolk

  • Rest and Sandy Bay (Porthcawl), Bridgend

  • Morecambe North, Lancashire

  • Cowes, Isle of Wight

  • Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire

  • Sidmouth Town, Devon

  • Shoreham Beach, West Sussex

  • Southend-on-Sea, Essex

The majority are along the south coast of England.

Swimming water condition

Near Bath is a popular swimming spot along the River Avon called Warleigh Weir, which crosses land owned by landowner Johnny Palmer.

Raw sewage has been released just upstream. Mr. Palmer has been working for years to make the water clean enough to achieve swimming water status.

“I think it’s a shame. You have kids swimming. And you know, you can’t tell your kids not to drink water. So, you literally have kids drinking sewage, which you would expect. In parts of Africa or India, but, you know, in Western Europe,” he said.

“Rivers are a central part of our landscape and our ecology and our natural environment. It’s a resource that everyone can and should use – and does.”

Hundreds of people bathed in this river near Bath last weekend

Hundreds of people bathed in this river near Bath last weekend

Southern Water is one of the water companies responsible for these areas, along with Wessex Water and South West Water.

In a statement, Southern Water said: “There were thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rainfall last night and [Tuesday]. Storm releases are made to protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding. The release is 95-97% rainwater and therefore should not be classified as raw sewage.

“We know customers don’t like the fact that the industry has to rely on them [discharges] to protect them and we are pioneering a new approach.”

Last year Southern Water was fined a record £90m after admitting it deliberately dumped huge amounts of sewage into the sea along the south coast.

Under EU law, this type of sewage discharge is only legal in “exceptional” cases. They mainly occur after heavy rainfall, when there is a risk of overflowing of pipes carrying rainwater, along with sewage.

However, in 2020 and 2021, there were nearly 400,000 such events.

Health protection

In a statement, the Environment Agency said sewage pollution could be “devastating to human health, local biodiversity and our environment”. He said he “will not hesitate to act to eliminate the environmental damage caused by sewage discharges.”

In the past he has called for top executives at England’s water companies to face jail time when serious pollution incidents occur.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Our rivers and beaches are once again being treated like open sewers. Years of underinvestment are now evident.”

The government has said it plans to draw up a plan by September this year to reduce storm surges. This was made a legal requirement by the Environment Act 2021.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.