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New report on UK beach sewage spills

  • New report on UK beach sewage spills

About the entity

Surfers Against Sewage
We’re a community dedicated to the protection of oceans, waves, beaches and wildlife. We fight long and hard to protect what we love and we won’t stop until it’s completely clean, safe and protected for everyone, forever.

Surfers Against Sewage haved released a new report SAS 2019 Water Quality Report, which evidences and illustrates the threat of sewage pollution at some of United Kingdom's beaches and rivers. 

The issue of poor water quality is returning to public consciousness and has been highlighted nationally by reports issued by both environmental charities and regulators. These reports have shown that water companies are performing consistently badly, with pollution events increasing and causing damage to local environments, wildlife, and putting human health at risk. Our rivers and oceans are now at risk of being treated like ‘open sewers’ as underinvestment, population and climate pressures converge.

Surfers Against Sewage has tracked and reported on 1,784 sewage pollution events along the UK coastline in 2019. Based on precautionary health recommendations, which advise against bathing for up to 48 hours after a sewage pollution event, this equates to an estimated 10% of bathing days lost to sewage discharges.

This year Southern Water received record fines of £126 million for serious failures in their sewage treatment works and for deliberately misreporting its water quality performance. Despite these record fines, Southern Water was still responsible for the most sewage pollution events in 2019, with over 571 reported sewage pollution events.

SAS believes that people should always be adequately informed and protected when they are using the sea and rivers for recreation.  People should not face elevated risks of illness because of sewage pollution generated by water companies. Where there is an unavoidable risk due to unusually extreme weather conditions, people should always be made aware of sewage pollution in real-time.

Hugo Tagholm, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage says: “Damning evidence has emerged this year showing just how prevalent sewage pollution impacts are along our coastline and rivers. We have been campaigning for almost thirty years on this issue, with some great successes and progress in that time. However, the spectre of sewage pollution seems to be returning and the time for more radical action to protect our ocean, waterways and water users has come. Water companies must put the health of planet and people before the interests of shareholders.”

It is now widely recognised that use of rivers and coastal waters play an important part in human physical health and wellbeing. It is vital that accurate, transparent, and reliable information be given to the public to allow water users to remain safe. With a significant proportion of water recreational activities being undertaken throughout the year, it is more important than ever to provide water quality information year-round, not just during the official bathing season. Of course, it’s not just coastal waters affected by these sewage discharges but also inland rivers and waterways where a massive 89% of the UK’s of sewer overflows discharge. It is becoming increasingly critical that all water users have the same access to water quality information to help keep them safe, and that includes those that use rivers for their recreation and wellbeing.



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