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Jane Nickerson warns of 'unacceptable risk' after latest Environment Agency data

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson warns of the ‘unacceptable risk’ on the health of swimmers after the latest data release by the Environment Agency (EA).

The data has revealed that water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers and coastal waters in England more than 400,000 times last year, up from 292,864 in 2019, an increase of 37 per cent.

As a result, untreated human effluent poured into rivers and seas for a total of 3.1 million hours via storm overflow pipes that are supposed to be used only in extreme weather to relieve pressure in the sewage system.

Swim England is part of the #EndSewagePollution coalition which has been calling for an end to sewage pollution in UK waterways.

Jane said: “These latest, worrying figures from the Environment Agency show why it is so important that action is taken to improve the water quality of our rivers and the ocean.

“Poor water quality puts the health of swimmers at risk which is unacceptable.

“Whilst part of the increase is due to increased monitoring and reporting of discharges, which is something we have been calling for and is a step in the right direction, these shocking figures show the scale of the problem and shows why it is so important that urgent, meaningful action is taken to clean up our waterways.

“We have been supporting the Inland Waters Bill and therefore welcome the announcement earlier in the week that the Government intends to bring forward legislation in this area in 2022, incorporating a number of issues we have been calling for.”

Positive step

The Government recently confirmed that a number of key policies will be made law. This will create three key duties to oversee some of the changes needed to improve our water environment:

  • A duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
  • A duty on government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and
  • A duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.

This is a positive step forward and Swim England will be pushing for further details as to how the Government intends to turn this commitment into law and how the plan will be enforced.

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