App gives bathers pollution warnings

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A new app which gives bathers and surfers real-time warnings about pollution incidents on popular beaches has been launched.

The alert service allows beach users to find out about discharges of untreated sewage and storm water at almost 250 of the nation’s favourite beaches, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) said.

The free app has been developed by SAS in response to concerns about the rising number of sewage spills at UK beaches and surfing spots during the May to September bathing season, which can cause illnesses for beach-goers.

Last year’s washout summer led to a rise in UK beaches failing to meet minimum standards for water quality, while the number of bathing spots which met the highest levels for cleanliness fell.

The app accesses real-time data from water companies on combined sewer overflows, which allow untreated sewage and storm water into the sea in periods of heavy rain to prevent sewers backing up, and can cause short-term pollution incidents.

The service, funded by the Environment Agency, sends out alerts to users when pollution reaches dangerous levels and the information is posted online. Non-smartphone users can sign up for free text messages.

SAS hopes the alert service will help beach users bathe at their favourite spots safely, without getting illness such as stomach bugs, skin, ear, eye or chest infections and sore throats and even hepatitis.

The app allows bathers to send a “must try harder” message to the water company when a combined sewer overflow is discharging too frequently, and report pollution incidents they witness to the Environment Agency’s hotline.

App users are being encouraged to complete sickness reporting forms with any details of illness contracted.

SAS campaign director Andy Cummins said: “This truly is an innovative concept, achieved thanks to years of campaigning against secretive combine sewer overflow sewage discharges from water companies.”