Yorkshire ocean should be made into aquatic national park to protect it from sewage pollution - GP Taylor

THERE is no better sight than looking out from Flamborough Head at the beauty of the North Sea.

The view changes moment by moment. A flat calm can turn into a raging torrent with a rising wind. Seabirds squall above the cliffs and the waves crash against the beach.

We in Yorkshire are blessed to have some of the finest beaches in the world. In September, I spent many hours sat on Reighton Sands. In the distance, Filey looked as though it was a town in the south of France.

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Selwick Bay at Flamborough Head in April 2021. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

As my waistline increased, so my wetsuit made me look more like a walrus than a grey seal.

I also had a growing concern that when I had spent time in the water, I was often ill afterwards, either with an ear infection or stomach bug.

It is amazing that according to research, sea bathers have 86 per cent greater odds of having any illness than those who do not spend time in the sea.

Furthermore, analysis of data from six studies revealed that bathers had more than twice the odds of experiencing at least one symptom of an ear ailment.

Members of Surfers Against Sewage. Picture: SWNS/Adam Gray.

Data showed bathers had 44 per cent higher odds of diarrhoea than those who didn’t swim in the sea, and six studies taken together suggested that bathers had a 27 per cent higher chance of stomach ache. All grim stuff and perhaps not the facts you want to read whilst having your breakfast.

Sadly, the waters around our coast are still being polluted by human and animal excrement.

The recent outcry over water pollution has caused the Government to make a dramatic U-turn and amend the Environment Bill. One minute it was going to allow water companies to run off sewage into the sea and then its mind was changed by public opinion, after drone footage showed human waste polluting a harbour.

Organisations like Surfers Against Sewage have been campaigning to get people to wake up to this environmental catastrophe for many years. Until now, their message has fallen on deaf ears.

Information published by the Environment Agency showed a 37 per cent year-on-year increase in dumping, as 3.1 million hours of human effluent flows were pumped via storm drains into English waters on 400,000 occasions.

This is a very serious problem. Raw sewage pumped into the sea not only contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria and even Covid-19, but also environmental threats such as micro plastics from laundry water and chemicals from plastics that interfere with hormones.

All of these come from sewage being dumped in the sea by utility companies.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs announced last Tuesday that the Environment Bill “will be further strengthened with an amendment that will see a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows”.

Progressive reduction? I have to ask why not an immediate halt?

The North Sea is a valuable and irreplaceable asset. We damage and pollute it at our own peril. Admittedly, gone are the days of the 1970s when the North Beach in Scarborough smelt like a public toilet and sanitary products and condoms were wrapped around seaweed.

From Redcar to Withernsea, many people earn an income from our waters and its beaches. Shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants benefit from people coming to the seaside.

The Yorkshire Ocean should be made into an aquatic national park and be protected from pollution and mismanagement. It is not a public toilet. Water companies should be nationalised and again put water quality before profits.

A Yorkshire aquatic national park would go a long way in securing a pollution-free future for our coastline and protecting not only wildlife but the increasing number of water users who brave the sometimes-chilly waters for a winter dip.

Private companies which want to make money for shareholders cannot be allowed to have control of sewage any more.

I am sure that they will find loopholes around sewage dumping and that the practice will continue as they will find it too costly to provide the appropriate infrastructure to stop it from happening.

Regardless of any government amendments, I am sure nothing much will change and billowing overflow pipes will still pump the dirty brown water into the sea.

We all have to start thinking about what happens after we have flushed the toilet. Progressive reduction is not good enough. Pumping effluent into the sea has to stop now.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.