Pollution warnings have been put in place for more than 100 British beaches after raw sewage was dumped into the sea.
The warnings appear on the Safer Seas and Rivers Service, run by the charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), and are based on data from water companies.
Discharges are allowed, for example, after heavy rainfall to stop the sewer system from being overloaded.
But there is growing public outrage over their impact on rivers and beaches.
SAS CEO Hugo Tagholm told the BBC that the cancellations came after the “slightest sign” of rain.
He criticized water companies’ use of combined overflow drains, which are designed to release sewage and stormwater during periods of extreme heavy rainfall.
“Do they think this is a joke? Don’t they realize how much anger there is about their profiteering and pollution?” he said.
In parliament, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas urged the government to “cut the crap” and put the “failing” water industry back into public hands.
In the past 24 hours, one company – Southern Water (SW) – has dumped raw sewage into nearly 30 bathing areas, including the popular resorts of Bognor Regis, Hastings and Cowes.
SW figures also show it has released raw water on 95 occasions since early September. Two storm drains, in Southsea East and Stokes Bay, were discharging for more than 24 hours.
According to the law, such discharges of sewage are legal only in “exceptional” cases.
In a statement, Southern Water said: “Rain can overwhelm the combined sewer and drainage system that exists in many parts of our region. To protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding, storm surges act as a release valve and release the excess water into the sea. These discharges are highly diluted, usually 95% rainwater. There are about 15,000 storm surges in England and about 1,000 in our area.”
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Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is warning people not to swim in more than 50 swimming areas across England due to poor water quality.
The Scottish Environment Agency currently has poor water quality warnings in 18 of its designated bathing waters, while Natural Resources Wales has three water quality warnings.
During an urgent question in the Commons on Tuesday, Environment Minister George Eustice said discharges of raw sewage into waterways would be cut by a quarter by 2025.
“This is the first government to put a clear requirement on water companies to reduce the harm caused by sewage discharges and we have legislated this through the Environment Act,” he said.
Caroline Lucas accused ministers of being “backwards” on the issue.
“We have a so-called plan that allows water companies to continue polluting until 2035 in areas of significant importance to human and ecological health and until 2050 elsewhere, which means penalties for almost 30 more years of pollution,” he said.
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