Sewage discharges into UK coastal waters increase by 87.6%

A brand new report launched as we speak reveals the extent of the sewage air pollution disaster within the United Kingdom’s seas and rivers.

Surfers Against Sewage’s (SAS) annual water high quality report has discovered that water firms are rising the discharge of dangerous quantities of sewage into our seas and rivers, with devastating penalties for the atmosphere.

The report particulars the variety of sewer overflow discharge notifications issued over the 12-month interval from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, utilizing knowledge accessed from water firms through SAS’ Safer Seas & Rivers Service (SSRS).

Whilst sewer overflows could be an essential a part of the secure administration of sewage programs within the occasion of exceptionally heavy rainfall, the report notes rising situations of discharge notifications issued at instances many would contemplate being regular rainfall occasions.

Surfers Against Sewage, who’ve been campaigning to finish sewage air pollution for over 30 years, have discovered {that a} whole of 5,517 sewer overflow discharge notifications have been issued by water firms over the 12-month interval – an 87.6% increase from final yr’s determine of two,941.

Of these discharge notifications, 3,328 have been issued through the bathing season (15 May – 30 September), up on 2020’s determine of 1,195.

With some water firms solely offering knowledge through the bathing season and with knowledge solely accessible for coastal waters, these numbers are possible a conservative estimate of the degrees of air pollution getting into seas and rivers.

Water firms are additionally presently on the heart of a serious investigation by monetary and environmental watchdogs the Environment Agency and Ofwat after they admitted they might have illegally launched untreated sewage into rivers and waterways.

Surfers Against Sewage: Southern Water was by far the biggest culprit amongst water companies when it came to CSOs in 2020/2021 | Photo: SAS

Southern Water: The Biggest Culprit

According to the report, Southern Water was by far the most important wrongdoer amongst water firms when it got here to CSOs.

Over the course of the showering season alone, a complete of 1,949 sewage discharge notifications have been issued by the corporate at an eye-watering common of 38 notifications per bathing water.

In addition, nearly 30% of the 286 well being stories submitted this yr got here from Southern Water’s working space.

“The findings of our report are shocking and outrageous, but they are by no means unexpected,” notes Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage.

“Time and time again, governments have claimed concern over the pollution of rivers and seas, but have so far failed to take concrete action to change the status quo.”

Loopholes in legal guidelines and systematically defunded regulators have left water firms to run amok.”

“The fact is, water companies continue to increase profits whilst causing catastrophic damage to the river and coastal ecosystems, with limited consequences.”

“Instead, eye-watering sums of money are paid out in dividends to investors, and huge pay packets are enjoyed by CEOs.”

“Why should ordinary people bear the brunt of this greed whilst providers continue to decimate our natural environment?”

“We need water companies to clean up their act and commit to a decade of change to ensure our rivers and coastlines are thriving with people and wildlife again.”

“The public outrage around the sewage amendments in the Environment Act shows just how deeply people want action.”

“The government now states it has the legal tools to hold water companies to account – we will be watching and campaigning to make sure this is the case.”

“The proof will be when sewage emissions are drastically reduced or eliminated, and our rivers and coastline meet the standards that the water industry should have helped deliver many years ago.”

United Kingdom: testing found that six out of the eight river sites monitored had elevated E. coli levels, all returning an overall poor water quality result throughout the bathing season | Photo: SAS

E. coli within the Bathing Season

UK rivers are in a very poor state.

As a part of SAS’ knowledge assortment, citizen scientists performed common water high quality sampling at eight places throughout the UK the place a river flows into the ocean at or near a chosen bathing water.

The testing discovered that six out of the eight river websites monitored had elevated E. coli ranges, all returning an total poor water high quality end result all through the showering season.

The UK presently has only one designated river bathing water.

As a end result, rivers should not topic to the identical monitoring that’s performed in coastal bathing waters through the bathing season – regardless of being in style spots for bathing and different sports activities, significantly through the coronavirus pandemic.

Sewage discharge occasions even have a detrimental impact on river ecology, and presently, solely 14% of UK rivers are deemed to have “good” ecological standing.

The water high quality report identifies clear hyperlinks between discharge notifications and human well being.

For the second yr, SAS collated well being stories by way of the SSRS to collect proof of the influence that poor water high quality and sewage air pollution could possibly be having on folks utilizing bathing waters for recreation.

The evaluation discovered that one in three stories of illness after bathing have been correlated with a air pollution occasion within the corresponding space.

“Environmental pollution plays an important role in the ‘silent pandemic’ of antimicrobial-resistant infections,” provides William Gaze, professor of microbiology at The European Centre for Environment and Human Health.

“Sewage contains high levels of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and antimicrobial drugs which are likely to contribute to the emergence of new resistance mechanisms in human pathogens.”

“It is essential that we reduce sewage discharges, and improve wastewater treatment, to reduce the risks to human health associated with exposure to natural recreational waters.”

UK: after spending time in polluted water, British surfers contracted ear infections which led to tinnitus | Photo: SAS

Incoherent Classification System

The report throws into query the classification system used by regulators to point the standard of designated bathing waters.

SAS reported a better common variety of sewage overflow discharges notifications at places categorised as “excellent” (10 warnings) and “good” (16 warnings) than places categorised as “sufficient” (5 warnings) and “poor” (4 warnings).

This is reverse to the anticipated pattern, suggesting that bathing water categorised as “excellent” and “good” could, in actual fact, be experiencing important sewage air pollution.

“Untreated sewage can be a death potion to our rivers and waterways. It is a cocktail of harmful viruses, bacteria, and chemicals,” states Dr. Christian Dunn, senior lecturer in Natural Sciences at Bangor University.

“Some of these can directly harm aquatic life, and others lead to devastating disruptions in the oxygen levels of the water – risking entire ecosystems.”

“Let’s not forget as well that raw sewage can include anything that goes down the drain, so that can be illicit drugs, pharmaceutical waste, and microplastics.”

“Worryingly, we don’t yet know the full effects these can have on life in our rivers.”

“Rivers are essential for the health of entire landscapes, our wildlife depends on them, and there’s no surer way to destroy a river than flooding it with sewage.”

This yr marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Water Resources Act, launched in 1991 to manipulate water high quality, but air pollution from sewage stays an enormous problem.

SAS’ newest water high quality report comes amidst heated debate out and in of Parliament across the function of water firms in polluting our seas and rivers.

Just this month, MPs voted to approve an modification that states that water firms should make a “progressive reduction in the adverse impact of discharges from the undertaker’s storm overflows” – a watered-down model of an modification tabled by the Duke of Wellington, which might have given rise to a systemic overhaul of sewage administration within the UK.

“I’ve been surfing for years now and have always noticed how poor the water quality is after heavy rain,” concludes Harry Briggs, a surfer primarily based within the South West of England.

“I’ve smelled sewage whilst surfing on a number of occasions, and sometimes I’ve even seen the water turn brown while I’ve been in it.”

“Recently, after spending time in polluted water, I contracted an ear infection which left me with tinnitus. It’s not good enough.”

“We should be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the UK without worrying about getting sick.”

2021 Surfers Against Sewage Water Quality Report | Key Findings

> 5,517 sewage discharge notifications have been issued by water firms over a 12-month interval, an increase of 87.6%;

> 3,328 of those discharge notifications have been issued all through the showering season;

> Southern Water was by far the most important wrongdoer amongst water firms when it got here to CSOs;

> One in six days have been rendered “unswimmable” resulting from sewage air pollution through the official bathing season alone;

> One in three stories of illness after bathing have been correlated with a air pollution occasion within the corresponding space;

> Currently, solely 14% of UK rivers are deemed to have ‘good’ ecological standing;

> Six out of eight rivers examined pose a steady severe danger to human well being;

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