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Sewage spills 15 times worse this month than whole of last February

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Published Time: 09.02.2024 - 22:40:13 Modified Time: 09.02.2024 - 22:40:13

More than 500 incidents of sewage being released into the sea recorded so far EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS/PA Sewage spills into the sea have been 15 times worse already this month than the whole of February last year, data suggests

More than 500 incidents of sewage being released into the sea recorded so far

: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS/PA

Sewage spills into the sea have been 15 times worse already this month than the whole of February last year, data suggests.

More than 500 pollution alerts have been triggered on the Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) real-time map, which tracks incidents that affect bathing waters on the English and Welsh coasts.

This compares to just 36 reported by the charity for the whole of February last year.

The drastic rise, which is most stark in the South and South West, is likely to be largely owing to significantly wetter weather compared to last February, which was the driest in 30 years.

Water companies are permitted to release sewage into rivers and seas under certain conditions to stop it backing up into people’s homes. Many sewage overflows are automatically triggered during times of heavy rainfall.

But SAS said wet weather was no excuse for water companies to regularly spill sewage, given that the system is intended for spills to occur only in exceptional circumstances.

“Our sewage system is nothing but a farce,” said spokesman Josh Harris, adding: “Water companies blame heavy rainfall for sewage spewing into our waterways.

“In reality, it’s the result of years of turning a blind eye to pollution in favour of lining CEO and shareholder pockets.

“Water companies have known for years that climate change brings increased rainfall.  And yet, they have neglected to act to improve vital infrastructure.”

More detailed reporting of overflows by some water companies, particularly Southern Water, may also have increased the figures.

SAS reported 11 sewage pollution alerts from Southern Water last year, compared to 384 this year.

A Southern spokesman said: “Given the torrential rain in recent weeks, including a series of storms, it is not surprising numbers are so different.

“Storm overflows are a vital safety valve to prevent homes from flooding, but we are working hard to reduce their use moving forward through a myriad of nature-based and engineering solutions.”

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