Raw sewage is being released onto some of Yorkshire's most popular beaches making them unsafe to swim at

Scarborough South BayScarborough South Bay
Scarborough South Bay
Untreated sewage is routinely being discharged onto some of Yorkshire’s most popular beaches, polluting the environment and making bathers ill, an environmental campaign group's annual report has found.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) cited 2,941 examples of raw sewage pollution incidents in English and Welsh waters in the 12 months to the end of September 2020. No comparable data is available for previous years.

Known as combined sewer overflows (CSO), they ordinarily 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.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Popular coastal beauty spots were among those affected, while at least one person needed emergency medical treatment due to becoming ill while in the water.

Bathing was not advised at Scarborough’s South Bay due to a sewage pipe which discharges directly onto the beach and two more in close proximity..

Conditions are similar for Salburn and Bridlington.

Hugo Tagholm, SAS chief executive, accused water companies of putting "profit before fully protecting the environment".

He said: "This report demonstrates that rivers and oceans are being treated like open sewers as combined sewer overflows are used as a routine method for disposing of sewage, instead of in the exceptional circumstances under which it is permitted.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Even worse, some - like Southern Water - are not even notifying the public when they do this so people cannot make informed decisions about their own health.

"This feels particularly horrifying in a year where we are all battling the Covid-19 pandemic, a virus that is being tracked through sewage works."

SAS accused Southern Water of failing to send CSO notifications during the entire summer bathing season, between May and September.

A Southern Water spokesman said: "An improved service is being finalised in consultation with stakeholder groups including Surfers Against Sewage. The new service uses improved software engineering combined with enhanced monitoring at our sites to speed the process of notification and reduce false positives."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The conservation charity also singled out South West Water (SWW) as "the worst performing water company" for its number of CSO discharge notifications per 10,000km of sewerage network.

In response, a SWW spokesman said: "Inevitably, the report - which focuses on alerts rather than actual spill data - is biased against those water companies which are monitoring and sharing information more proactively."

The SAS report said that in the most severe pollution cases, two water users needed antibiotics for their gastroenteritis issues due to exposure to poor water quality in Bournemouth and in Marazion, near Penzance.

In addition, a respondent said they needed emergency care for severe abdominal pain after bathing at Mwnt Beach, Cardigan, Wales.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Campaigners are calling for a range of new measures including investment from water companies in sewerage infrastructure to eventually end the use of emergency sewage overflows.

A Yorkshire Water spokeswoman said: “We know how important the Yorkshire coastline is to our customers and visitors and we want to ensure that we are playing our part by using new technology and techniques to drive towards consistently excellent bathing water quality.

“We’ve invested over £100m along Yorkshire’s coastline in recent years to improve bathing water and continue to invest in innovative technologies, working alongside Scarborough Borough Council and the Environment Agency, to make further improvements. In Scarborough particularly, we’ve been involved in a £1m bathing water modelling project this year, involving global experts, to further understand the range of factors contributing to bathing water quality in the South Bay.”