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Sewage scandal shows importance of urgent water quality progress

The issue of sewage pollution of our seas and rivers is back in the press with horrifying footage of sewage yet again being pumped into seas up and down the country.

Following a weekend where the Environment Agency warned people to stay out of the water at scores of beaches, listing 22 beaches in England as unsafe for bathing, Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson has reiterated the need for urgent action to tackle the scourge of sewage pollution.

Jane said: “Millions of people enjoy swimming in the sea at bathing spots around the coast, particularly so during the warmer summer months.

“It is therefore heart-breaking to see people being told ‘do not swim’ because of pollution risks – not only posing a risk to their health but also harming wildlife and damaging the environment.

“We have been campaigning on this issue for years as part of the #EndSewagePollution coalition. Last year as part of the Environment Act the Government has previously committed to publishing a plan by 1 September outlining how they intend to tackle sewage discharges.

“With untreated sewage being discharged into England’s rivers and coastal bathing waters for more than 3.1 million hours on more than 400,000 occasions during 2020, this plan cannot come soon enough and must not be delayed.

“But what is needed even more than plans and words is robust, tangible action to reduce discharges from storm overflows and to improve the performance of the sewerage system as a whole.

“Whilst no MP voted to dump raw sewage into our rivers, it was disappointing that a majority of Conservative MPs voted against the Duke of Wellington’s amendment to the Environment Bill last year, which Swim England supported, which would have gone further to stop sewage pollution.

“The frequency of pollution events and the health risks swimmers have to contend with when trying to enjoy the waters around England is completely unacceptable and water companies and the regulators must step up and deliver.

“These last few days have once again shown the strength of feeling on this issue with the public.”