Rivers and oceans are run by water companies like ‘open sewers’, charities

Campaigners say the seas and rivers are being treated like ‘open sewers’ with more than 3,000 source sewage pollution incidents discovered last year.

Annual Water Quality Report of Surfers Against Sewage by the Campaign Committee that monitors the discharge of sewage into public baths across the UK in 2019 and 2020.

The charity says most cases of water pollution come from water companies and some incidents where swimmers become seriously ill.

The UK has missed its 2020 target for the seas to meet good environmental conditions, failing 11 of the 15 indicators of good marine health.

About 86 per cent of rivers and inland waterways in the UK have failed to meet good environmental conditions, according to the Water Quality Campaign Committee.

“This report underscores the poor state of water quality in the UK and the drivers who are destroying our blue habitats,” the group added.

Campaigners say seas and rivers are being treated like ‘open sewers’ with more than 3,000 source sewage pollution discovered last year

Sewage incidents have been reported across the UK in bathing areas, with southern water expected to have the highest number of emergency discharge incidents, but they failed to report a majority - only 79 notices were sent in 2019 compared to more than 600

Sewage incidents have been reported across the UK in bathing areas, with southern water expected to have the highest number of emergency discharge incidents, but they failed to report a majority – only 79 notices were sent in 2019 compared to more than 600

As part of the report, surfers against sewage also detected the most serious pollution cases, and in one incident two beach goers needed antibiotics for stomach problems near Bournemouth and Benzance.

After the Thames swam in 2006, the U.N. Patron Lou Buck said, “We have a right to an environment that is not harmful to our health and is protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

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This year, the charity said the importance of the natural environment for physical and mental health has been brought to the public’s attention.

Recent reports from the European Center for the Environment and Human Health indicate that we are more likely to get sick from poor water quality than we did in the 1990s.

“Furthermore, surfers and water users are increasingly exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria – one of the world’s biggest growing health threats,” they wrote.

In this year’s report, Sewers Against Sewage showed 153 water user health reports from patients after our rivers and seas were used for recreational purposes.

Reports include cases of gastroenteritis; Ear, nose and throat infections; Eye infections and in some cases, very serious long-term health effects.

In 2019, 98 percent of UK bath waters met the minimum standard, but despite this, the country ranked 25th out of 30 European countries for the quality of our bath water, the charity wrote in its annual water quality report.

“What’s mostly unpublished is that only 66 per cent of UK bath water is rated ‘excellent’, which is on average less than 87 per cent of coastal bath water that meets the same standards in other parts of Europe.”

An Anti-Sewers spokesman said there had been incidents from several water companies, but called Southern Water in particular, failing to issue sewage leak notices for the majority by 2020.

“In fact, 21 per cent of the total reports of ill health were submitted from within the southern waters,” the spokesman added.

In 2019 there were 690 sewage leakage notifications from southern water, but by 2020 so far only 79, ‘notices should have been sent, but frustratingly they were not,’ the company said.

Surfers against Sewage CEO Hugo Tokolm say water companies are making a profit before they can protect the environment.

“This report demonstrates that rivers and oceans are treated like open-air sewers because integrated sewage is used as a routine method of discharging sewage, instead of permitted exceptional circumstances,” he said.

‘Even worse, some people – like Southern Water – don’t inform the public when they do this, so people can’t make informed decisions about their health.

“It feels particularly terrifying in a year, where we all fight the COVID19 epidemic, which is being monitored by sewage works.”

Tacolm said water companies need to invest more in infrastructure to reduce the use of emergency sewage overflow into wastewater baths.

A spokesman for Southern Water told the BBC the floodwaters were helping to ‘prevent the flooding of our customers’.

The company also said it would invest $ 1.7 billion in its wastewater network.

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Cary Douglas

About the Author: Cary Douglas

Wayne Ma is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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