Water Industry News

Raw Sewage Discharges In England Up By 37 Per Cent

The amount of raw sewage that is discharged into waterways and around the coast of England has been in the spotlight recently, and with good reason.


The Guardian has reported that, according to figures published by the Environment Agency, raw sewage discharges in England in 2020 showed a 37 per cent year-on-year increase, with raw sewage pumped into waters around the country some 400,000 times last year.


Charity Surfers Against Sewage, which has spent more than three decades campaigning against raw sewage discharges along the country’s coasts, has not recorded this much human effluent in our waters since it was founded in 1990.


Hugh Tagholm, chief executive of the organisation, told the news provider that the country is facing “a second wave of sewage pollution”.


However, the issues come from far more than just the human excrement, although this obviously poses a risk to our health, but also from the likes of microplastics that are shed by our clothing when it’s washed, as well as endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that affect hormones that can be found in plastics, cosmetics and detergents.


The newspaper also noted that there are other issues with so much raw sewage finding its way into our waterways and seas. Among them is phosphorus, which causes algal blooms, as well as the fact that it contributes to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and Covid-19.


Why have these sewage discharge events increased so much in the past year? Among the reasons are the increasing number of properties that are using the sewage network and the increased frequency of heavy storms, with the rainwater filling up the system and resulting in these discharges.


There are also fatbergs and other blockages in our aging sewage system that contribute to the issues of overflowing.


However, as the water-quality regulatory development manager at the Environment Agency Keith Davis told the newspaper, it’s not possible to solve this problem by enlarging sewers or creating more space to store waste water during heavy storms.


What is required is a sustainable approach to managing the runoff that results from wet weather. “We’re looking at a move towards more green infrastructure, that slows surface water or prevents it getting into the sewers,” he explained.


These approaches include everything from rainwater harvesting systems and green roofs to replacing non absorbent surfaces with the likes of gravel and porous asphalt. Sustainable drainage systems (known as SuDS) that include ponds, wetlands and green ditches have had considerable success elsewhere in the world and are being considered in the UK.


Last month, Surfers Against Sewage revealed that some 44,000 people had signed its petition calling on the government to urgently take action over the issue of sewage pollution in our rivers and on our beaches.


What you can do as a business is make sure that you’re not wasting water and contributing more than you need to into the sewage system. A water audit survey can help you identify areas where you’re using too much water and could make savings that are not only good for the planet, but also your water bills.