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Sewage spills continue to blight our rivers due to lack of action by water companies
Water companies poured raw sewage into our rivers nearly 400,000 times in the past year, Environment Agency data shows.
While this is a slight reduction on previous years, mainly as a result of the drought and dry year experience in 2022 which saw rainfall at only 90% of the long-term average, the figures still show a complete disregard for the health of our rivers and fish.
Jamie Cook, CEO at the Angling Trust, said:
“Raw sewage is still spilling into our rivers 824 times a day. 2022 was a dry year and still we have to suffer this appalling level of pollution. While water companies will try and dress this up as progress because there have been fewer spills than previous years, the fact is this is still not good enough. What progress there has been is too little and too slow.
“Water companies need to do more. No bonuses for directors and senior managers until they have got this mess sorted. And the government’s storm overflow reduction plan needs to be urgently reviewed and beefed up. Our rivers, our fish, cannot wait to 2027 for that to happen.”
While the figures show a 34% reduction compared to 2021, untreated sewage still spilled into our waterway for over 1.7 million hours with the Environment Agency describing the performance of water companies as being “totally unacceptable”.
Environment Agency data shows that water companies overclaimed the roll out of monitoring of storm overflows, claiming 96% were covere when only 91% were covered, according to the EA.
They dismissed the notion that it has been water company action that led to the reduction in spills pointing out that it was the dry weather that was responsible for the reduction, commenting:
“Despite claims by water companies and Water UK, the body that represents their interests, there is no evidence to show it is because of water company action. In fact, last year water companies only made improvements to 65 storm overflows – less than 0.5% of the overall total of overflows in the entire system – so we are very confident that water company action has not significantly contributed to the reduction in flows overall. For them to claim otherwise is wilfully misleading.”
Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said:
“However you dress it up, this is still an alarming and depressing level of pollution. Anglers are truly angry by the way our rivers are being treated. Nearly 400 of them have come together to create our own water quality network. These ‘activist anglers’ working with our Anglers Against Pollution campaign see the devastating impact of this pollution every day. By doing their own monitoring of our rivers they are determined to hold water companies and the government to account.
“We share the anger of the Environment Agency around the total lack of action by water companies. The government and regulators need to do more to force them to take action. Ofwat recently made headlines in proposing to stop water company bosses from claiming huge bonuses, but only if they are not managing their financial resilience. As for our rivers and environment, Ofwat only want those bosses to ‘take account’ of the impact. That’s not enough. They should be required to do so and not get a bonus if they don’t.”