Swimmers have been told to avoid more than 40 beaches and bathing spots across the UK after heavy rain overwhelmed sewage systems.
Various beauty spots have been hit by ‘storm sewage’, reigniting questions about how sewage can be allowed into public waters – and anger at water companies.
Pollution warnings have been put in place across England and Wales after downpours hit the country following months of little to no rain.
The south west and south coasts of England have been worst affected, according to data collected by environmental campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).
Swimmers are advised against swimming at nine beaches in Sussex, seven in Cornwall, five in Dorset, four in Devon, three on the Isle of Wight and three in Essex.
Warnings have also been put in place in Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Lancashire and South Wales, as well as two inland wild bathing spots near Bristol and Minehead in Somerset.
On Tuesday there was an alert at Spittal near Berwick in Northumberland, although this has since disappeared.
There has been growing public outrage in recent years at the volume of raw or partially treated sewage pumped into UK rivers and coastal waters.
Hugo Tagholm, the chief executive of SAS, tweeted on Tuesday: “The sh*tstorm after the calm. Many beaches on the south coast are off limits due to sewage discharges (from southern waters).
A SAS spokeswoman said there were nine other pollution warnings in place unrelated to heavy rain, and urged people visiting the coast to check its interactive map online before swimming.
In July, the Environment Agency said in a report that water company bosses should be jailed for the worst pollution incidents, calling the sector’s performance in 2021 “the worst we’ve seen in years”. .
Today the organization added: ‘The current risk of surface water flooding reinforces the need for vigorous action by water companies to reduce discharges from storm overflows. We are monitoring the current situation and supporting local authorities if necessary.
Man ‘caught with a crossbow’ at Windsor Castle says ‘I’m here to kill the Queen’
A spokesman for Southern Water said: “Yesterday’s thunderstorms brought heavy rain which fell on parched ground and was unable to absorb surface runoff, meaning more rain than habit has overwhelmed our network.”
“This has led to overflows – which are used to protect homes, schools, businesses and hospitals from flooding – dumping excess water into the sea in parts of West Sussex, including Seaford.
“These discharges are highly diluted and typically 95% of them are rainwater.”
The company’s CEO has since been challenged to drink that water for a £1,000 bet.
Southern Water says they are “dedicated to significantly reducing storm overflows” and are running innovative pilot projects to help.
Northumbrian Water made a similar comment, with a spokesperson admitting that “a short stormwater discharge was caused by a storm overflow at Spittal, near Berwick”.
Adding that the company had made huge investments to counter the problem and that the majority of bathing spots had good or excellent ratings, the spokesperson said: “These discharges are mainly rainwater with a small percentage of sewage coming together because it uses the same sewer system.’
Anglian Water, which supplies Lincolnshire and also provides sewage services to Southend, also said most of the discharge would have been mainly rainwater and it had invested to address the issues.
Other water companies in areas where there are sewage alerts have been approached for comment.
You have a story? Contact our press team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can submit your videos and photos here.
For more stories like this, check out our news.
Follow Metro.co.uk on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates. You can now also receive items from Metro.co.uk directly to your device. Sign up for our daily push alerts here.
MORE: Polio found in London sewage leads officials to declare ‘national incident’