Water company faces new charges over sewage discharge

Water companies in England and Wales have been accused of breaching environmental permits by dumping untreated sewage into rivers and seas even in times of drought, according to a charity that collects data on the utility.

Sewage is discharged from storm overflow pipe The Environment Agency will only allow it during periods of “unusually heavy rainfall”. But research by environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage has found that water companies have been dumping untreated sewage into popular bathing spots, even during the dry season.

The charity, which collects data to protect swimmers’ health, issued 9,216 sewage pollution alerts at 450 popular bathing spots in the year to September. At least 145 of these incidents were likely illegal because they occurred during periods when there was no rain.

Nearly half of so-called “dry spills” occurred on beaches where water quality was described as “excellent,” according to the report released Thursday.

Amy Slack, head of campaigns and policy at SAS, said it was “shocking to discover evidence that water companies may be engaging in illegal activities” and “mocks the UK’s classification system for designated bathing waters”.

The findings are based on data from electronic storm overflow pipe monitoring equipment combined with weather information.

The report likely underestimated the magnitude of the problem because not all storm overflow pipes are equipped with the technology, and water utilities are responsible for reporting their own figures, which only include some beaches and bathing spots.

last year Nanshui, The company responsible for supplying and treating sewage in the south-east has been fined a record £90m for deliberate manipulation and misreporting of data in the seven years leading up to 2017. The breach highlights the problem of relying on water utilities to report their own sewage discharges.

SAS also found that 63 percent of illnesses recorded on its app and reported to doctors were due to poor water quality. Gastroenteritis was the most common illness, along with ear, nose, throat, skin and urinary tract infections, the report said.

The Environment Agency has launched an investigation into the company’s compliance with discharge permits, while water regulator Ofwat is investigating. investigation Utilities’ management of their wastewater treatment plants. Both investigations are pending.

Ofwat said it would review the charity’s report with interest. “The sewage we are witnessing being discharged into the environment is unacceptable,” it added.

If found guilty of violating the rules, water monopolies could face fines of up to 10 percent of annual turnover in civil cases or unlimited fines in criminal proceedings. Three water companies have gone public, while the rest are owned by private equity, sovereign wealth and pension funds.

Water UK, which represents the industry, said there was an “urgent need” to address storm overflow. “To further accelerate progress, we need the government to end uncontrolled connections to sewers by housing developers without first knowing the capacity of the sewers.”

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency were contacted for comment.

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