Water companies that dump waste water in dry weather, find SAS report | Water

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Water companies have been releasing sewage onto beaches and into rivers even when it’s not raining, according to a report by Surfers Against Sewage.

Wastewater spills are supposed to occur only in exceptional circumstances; when it rains so heavily that the system cannot handle the volume of water and sewage being spewed out at once.

However, there have been anecdotal reports of local sewage outflows spilling human waste into local waterways even when it is not raining. Now SAS claims that these ‘dry spills’ happen routinely, contrary to rules which stipulate that outflows should only happen during “exceptionally heavy rainfall”.

By analyzing meteorological data from the Meteorological Office as well as spill data, SAS found that 146 dry spills were discovered over a 12-month period, 95 of which were in locations where the water quality is classified as “excellent”. Southern Water, the worst offender, was responsible for four times as many dry spills as the second worst offender, South West Water.

Amy Slack, head of campaigns and policy at SAS, said: “Over the last year the British public have made clear their disgust at what is happening to our rivers and seas, yet water companies continue to pollute at will. is particularly alarming to reveal evidence of potentially illegal activity by water companies in the form of dry spills, which are not permitted under current regulations. Shareholders and CEOs brazenly profit from pollution.”

“It’s high time the government stepped up and took real action to curb the destructive and selfish behavior of the water companies responsible for this literal shitstorm.”

According to data from The The Environmental Protection Agencysewage has been dumped into the sea and rivers around the UK more than 770,000 times during 2020 and 2021 – equivalent to almost 6 million hours.

Sewage in waterways is also making people sick, the report claims.

As part of its water quality report, SAS has also analyzed data from 720 sick reports submitted to its reporting system. The data showed that over a third (39%) of illness cases correlated with wastewater discharge warnings, while 63% of cases reported to a physician were attributed to poor water quality.

The most common illness reported after people swam in the sea or rivers was gastroenteritis, with two in three people reporting symptoms associated with the condition. Ear, nose and throat infections were also common, with respiratory, skin and urinary tract infections also reported.

Over half of the illness reports related to swims at sites classed as “outstanding” under the government’s testing regime.

Dr. Anne Leonard, an environmental epidemiologist and microbiologist based at the University of Exeter, said: “We have known for over 100 years that sewage contains disease-causing micro-organisms and that drinking water contaminated with this type of waste causes infections. These infections can be mild, self-limiting diseases, but they can also be really serious infections that require medical treatment.”

Swimmers have reported anger and sadness after having to change how they interact with the water after illness.

Julia Walker, a social worker based in Shoreham, West Sussex, said: “I use the sea to help deal with stress from my job as a social worker. In September I went for a swim at a popular spot before starting a new job. The in the evening I experienced diarrhea and stabbing pains in my kidneys. The doctor confirmed that I had a bacterial and a kidney infection. They thought it was very unusual to have both at the same time, but said this was probably caused by swimming in the polluted water.

“I was sick for six days which affected my new role. It took me a few months to get back into the sea and now I only swim with my head above water for fear of getting sick again. It makes me very angry that the water companies influence how I use the water.”

A spokesman for Water UK said: “Companies agree there is an urgent need to tackle storm surges. They are set to launch one of the country’s biggest-ever infrastructure programs which, if approved by regulators, will deliver £56bn .in improvements to our rivers and seas It builds on at least £3bn of improvements in the last few years alone.

People protest against sewage
Members of Hastings and St Leonards Clean Water Action are protesting incidents of raw sewage being released onto the beach in St Leonards, Sussex, in August. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA

“To accelerate progress further, we need the government to stop housing developers’ uncontrolled connections to sewers without first knowing their capacity, and stop the flushing of wet wipes made from materials that cause blockages and fatberg. Both are major causes of sewer congestion and spillage. We also need the government to implement existing legislation to increase the use of sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) on new developments as a means of reducing the amount of rainwater entering the sewer system.”

Southern Water told the Guardian: “Storm discharges, which greatly reduce the impact of the type of flooding we’ve seen recently and are allowed by the Environment Agency, have been reduced by almost 50% this year compared to last year, in part due to a dry summer We are investing £2bn to improve environmental performance and further reduce their use by increasing storage capacity and working with partners to reduce rain run-off entering the system.

“Our stormwater overflow data, including non-consent spills, is submitted to the EPA. Our annual bathing water update details how we are working to create healthier rivers and seas. This improvement is achieved through record additional investment to reduce pollution and prevent flooding, industry-leading monitoring and transparency in spill reporting and exploration of innovative, nature-based and technical solutions.”

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