UK water horror: Hundreds of swimmers falling ill as sewage pumped into seas and rivers

Farmer speaks out over sewage being pumped into a local river

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The warning comes from Cornwall-based environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, who have just updated their free Safer Seas & Rivers Service, which provides real-time data about water quality and sewage pollution at 400 locations across the UK. To mark the relaunch, the charity has also set up a temporary lifeguard tower on Jubilee Beach, Southend-on-Sea, which is on “poo watch”, checking the sea for sewage pollution and highlighting how people can stay safe in the water. The UK is in the middle of a “sewage scandal”, with data released by the Environment Agency revealing water companies discharged raw sewage into English rivers a disgusting 372,533 times last year alone. In fact, only 14 percent of the UK’s rivers are deemed to have a “good” ecological status — and Surfers Against Sewage have started a petition to increase the number of designated bathing waters in our rivers.

Surfers Against Sewage have also published data on the problems faced by wild swimmers in British waters, collected via a survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted by Opinium Research.

The findings revealed that wild swimming is growing in popularity, especially among the younger generations, with 43 percent of participants having been inspired to try the sport since the start of COVID-19.

However, of the one-in-five Britons who have tried wild swimming or other sports in UK waters, 55 percent have ended up falling ill afterwards.

Furthermore, 52 percent of Britons reported that they are scared of swimming outside for fear the water might be polluted — and 24 percent said they would not risk it because of the sewage scandal.

The study found that three-quarters of the public agree that sewage pollution is a real issue in UK waters.

And 55 percent of those polled said that funding to make improvements to sewage infrastructure and help combat pollution should come from the profits of water companies.

According to the researchers, a fifth of British adults say that either they or someone they know has fallen ill after swimming in the UK’s rivers and seas — with nearly two-fifths saying that the illnesses were directly attributed to poor water quality by a medical professional.

Of these, common conditions included ear infections, diarrhoea, gastrointestinal infections and eye infections — conditions also reported by users of the Safer Seas & Rivers Services app over the course of the last two years.

In fact, the app has registered 640 illness reports since it was first launched, with other common illnesses including nose, skin, throat and non-specific viral infections.

The Safer Seas & Rivers Services app already has some 88,000 users, Surfers Against Sewage said.

Surfers Against Sewage CEO Hugo Tagholm said: “This Jubilee weekend, the public will flock to our amazing coastlines and rivers to enjoy the water and all the health and wellbeing benefits that taking a dip provides.

“We’re proud of the improvements we’ve already helped deliver for bathing waters nationwide — ensuring swimmers, surfers and holidaymakers have a cleaner and safer experience. However, there is much work still to be done.

“It is clear the UK public are fearful about swimming due to the amount of raw sewage being discharged into waterways, and believe the water industry must cut this c**p.

“The public need a service to check for sewage pollution before entering the water, so they can enjoy the experience without worrying about getting sick.

“Surfers Against Sewage is proud to have pioneered the provision of real-time water quality information through the Safer Seas & Rivers Service, which alerts users to sewage and agricultural pollution as and when it happens at hundreds of beaches and rivers nationwide.

“This helps surfers, swimmers and beach-lovers avoid polluted water and all the potential dangers it carries.”

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One user of the Safer Seas & Rivers Services is Norfolk-based wild swimmer Pam Spychal.

She said: “I started wild swimming during the pandemic and love it. It brings me immense joy and connects me to nature and myself.

“I have noticed the smell of sewage around me as I bathe and every time it rains there is a sewage outflow at local beaches.

“That’s why I check the Safer Seas & Rivers Service app whenever I am heading for a swim, and I use the platform to contact our local water company and MP about the issue.

“I’m grateful to Surfers Against Sewage for providing this free service and protecting us swimmers — but it shouldn’t be necessary.

“Water companies and the government must end sewage pollution.”

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