British swimmers usually need not think twice about taking a dip in the sea. That’s all changed since pollution warnings have been issued across the UK, with more than 100 popular beaches affected by severe volumes of sewage discharge.
Charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are calling the current situation a ‘sewage scandal’ as water companies pump sewage directly into the sea, causing the water to become polluted with potentially dangerous substances. Sewage discharges are allowed after heavy rainfall to prevent systems from being overwhelmed, hence the overflow pipes placed on coastlines.
In the last two days of heavy rainfall, Southern Water has discharged untreated sewage across almost 30 bathing sites, including the popular resorts of Bognor Regis, Hastings and Cowes, according to the BBC. By law, these kinds of sewage discharges are legal only in exceptional circumstances. On the SAS map, most beaches in southern England have red crosses over them, which means ‘pollution risk warning in place’. Other locations include Herne Bay, Sandgate, Lancing, Shoreham-by-Sea, Hayling Island and parts of Devon.
A spokesperson for Southern Water said: ‘To protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding, storm overflows act as a release valve and release excess water into the sea. These discharges are heavily diluted, typically being 95 percent rainwater. There are around 15,000 storm overflows in England and approximately 1,000 in our region.’
Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is warning people to avoid swimming at more than 50 bathing sites across the country due to poor water quality.