Combine Sewer Overflows: water companies far from their best

Clean water campaigners Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) are extremely disappointed with the Planning Inspector's weak ruling, requiring water companies to make only minor improvements to their 4,000 unregulated Combine Sewer Overflows (CSOs).

These minor improvements fall far short of what is needed to protect and improve the environment and SAS feel this has been an opportunity lost.

SAS supported the Environment Agency's proposed conditions, which didn't require excessive investment. Yet incredible, after 20 years of leniency, rather than embrace the decision with good grace the water companies involved appealed against 94% of the discharge consents! The appeal was brought before the Planning Inspector by; Anglian Water, Yorkshire Water, Welsh Water/Dwr Cymru, Thames Water and Severn Trent Water.

This missed opportunity and weak decision from the Planning Inspector must be a real blow to the Environment Agency staff that invested a huge amount of time and effort in bring this case before the inspectorate. We hope this will not deter the Environment Agency from commissioning other similarly vital steps to help protect and improve the environment.

On the opening day of the appeal, the 19th of January 2010, SAS greeted the water companies' executives as they entered the appeal hearing to present their case with a huge image of what these CSOs actually look like, emblazoned simply with the word "Appealing?"

SAS are furious that these companies have been allowed to continue to pollute without fear of prosecution. They've had twenty years notice that these CSOs will have to be regulated, yet rather than face the music, once again they've shown utter disregard for what's best for the environment and recreational water users.

Surfers are 3 times more at risk from hepatitis A than the average bather because of the immersion and ingestion associated with the sport.

SAS Executive Director, Hugo Tagholm says: "As a water user and on behalf of all SAS supporters I'm extremely disappointed. These profitable water companies have had plenty of notice about these improvements, but outrageously they mounted an appalling appeal which has helped prevent actions that could have improved our environment."

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