Water companies discharge untreated sewage into UK rivers 375,000 times | Water

Last year, water companies discharged untreated sewage into UK rivers 372,533 times, a slight decrease from the previous year.

Water companies covering England discharged raw sewage for a total of more than 2.7 million hours; compared with 3.1 million hours in 2020, according to figures released by the Environment Agency (EA) on Thursday.

The data comes as the government has announced the largest overhaul of the sewer system since the 1990s to tackle emissions.

The government said the storm overflow discharge reduction plan was a step for water companies to deal with untreated sewage discharges, which the government and the public had made clear was unacceptable.

The plan’s goal is to eliminate 40 percent of untreated sewage from flowing into rivers by 2040. Untreated sewage and stormwater can only be discharged into rivers and coastal waters through stormwater overflow pipes in extreme weather to relieve pressure on sewage systems. However, evidence over the past three years shows that water companies often use overflows to discharge untreated sewage, rather than treating it.

Environment Minister George Eustice said: “We are the first government to express our expectation that water companies must take steps to significantly reduce stormwater overflows. Today we are setting specific targets to ensure that these stormwater overflows will be Streams are only used in exceptional circumstances – to comply with our Environmental Law and build on broader water quality work.”

However, critics said the plan, which was launched for comment on Thursday, lacked urgency. Mark Lloyd, chief executive of Rivers Trust, said: “I am disappointed that this plan lacks the urgency we desperately need. If the plan is to move beyond the dual climate and nature crisis we are currently facing, the plan will It takes a lot of input from civil society and NGOs like the River Trust. We want to have rivers where people and wildlife can thrive, but the planned target timeline is too slow – I want to see this in my lifetime!”

The 10 water companies covering England will discharge hundreds of thousands of hours of untreated sewage into waterways in 2021, data released by EA on Thursday showed. 372,533 leaks were recorded only on overflows with event duration monitors: 12,608 overflows out of 14,707, or 89%.

Over 60 overflow emissions per year are considered too high and should trigger an investigation. On average, 14 percent of the 10 water utilities’ emissions exceeded this limit.


Water utilities in England are being investigated by regulators Ofwat and the EA after admitting they may be illegally discharging untreated sewage into rivers and waterways. The investigation will involve more than 2,200 wastewater treatment plants, and any company found to be in violation of its legal license will be subject to enforcement action, including fines or prosecution. For civil cases, fines can be up to 10% of annual turnover, or unlimited in criminal proceedings.

Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm said the government’s plan was not addressing the problem fast enough.

“The level of public outrage over the sewage pollution scandal is growing by the day, but the consultation we’re seeing today gives us goals and timelines decades from now,” he said.

“The water industry must be forced to act faster and with more urgency to address the deplorable pollution record they are destroying our rivers and coastlines. The industry has had more than 30 years to act; we need to make sure they have no chance for the next 30 years Put profit above the earth.”

Richard Benwell, chief executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: “These figures show that our waterways have been clogged with sewage pollution for another year. This has to change, for our own health and for the time we are polluted. animals and plants struggling to survive in the waters.”

If the government is serious about cleaning up rivers, Benwell said, “we need a hard deadline in law to improve the overall quality of our waters and strong enforcement. We must stop the most harmful pollution by 2030 and get there Stop the flow of water pollution to people and wildlife farther and faster.”

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