Sewage is destroying UK beaches

October 8, 2009 | Environment

Sewage is destroying UK beaches

SAS are pleased to hear the European Commission (EC) has decided to take the United Kingdom to the European Court of Justice over non-compliance with EU environment legislation.

SAS has spent the summer highlighting the inadequacies of the UK’s sewerage system, specifically with Combine Sewage and Stormwater Overflow drains (CSOs), culminating in the hard-hitting Panorama programme “Britain’s Dirty Beaches”.

The EC is concerned that the urban waste water collecting systems and treatment facilities in London and Whitburn in North East England and have deemed them “inadequate and a threat to human health.”

SAS have highlighted time and again concerns over the short-term pollution impacts CSOs have on our coastline, and stressed the potential impacts to water users and especially waveriders who are more at risk as they immerse and ingest more than the average bather.

Some of the health risks associated with using sewage polluted waters include Ecoli, Hepatitis A, Gastro Enteritis and much more. 

Our rivers, seas, bathing waters and surf spots are suffering from short-term pollution incidents from CSOs.  The sewerage system is being over powered by the volume of water after periods of rain.  There are solutions that can take the pressure off the sewerage system without relying on CSOs or resulting in sewage backing up in our homes.

They include improvements in the efficiency of the sewerage system and/or an increase in capacity at sewage treatment works.  Local planners need to embrace and promote Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) that slowly release surface rainwater runoff.  And we can all use water more responsibly, taking small steps like turning the tap off whilst brushing our teeth, which will in effect increase capacity at sewage treatment works reducing the risk of overflow.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "More attention needs to be paid to upgrading collecting systems to ensure full compliance with EU legislation on waste water treatment. Such investment will bring enormous benefits in terms of improving the quality of the environment."

SAS Campaign Manager Andy Cummins says:  “The EC are echoing SAS’s concerns over the frequency CSOs are used is discharge raw sewage and rain water rather than treating it in a sewage plant.  This can be a serious threat to human health.” 

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