Major UK Water Companies Accused of Illegally Spilling Sewage on Dry Days, Harming Environment and Public Health.

BBC Investigation Reveals Repeated Violations by Thames, Wessex, and Southern Water in 2022.

In a shocking revelation, a BBC investigation has unveiled that three major water companies in the UK—Thames Water, Wessex Water, and Southern Water—have allegedly engaged in illegal sewage discharges into rivers and streams, even on days when there was no rainfall. This prohibited practice, known as “dry spilling,” not only violates environmental regulations but also poses significant threats to wildlife and public health.

The investigation, conducted by the BBC’s climate and data teams, scrutinized data from the Environment Agency, responsible for monitoring the compliance of water companies with their permits. These permits strictly allow sewage discharge only during or after heavy rainfall, when the sewer systems are overwhelmed by stormwater. However, the data exposes a disturbing pattern: in 2022, these three water companies collectively released sewage through dry spills for a staggering 3,500 hours, flagrantly breaching their permits.

Furthermore, the investigation reveals that these companies initiated dry spills a shocking 388 times in 2022. These spills occurred even during periods of drought and on the hottest day on record. Some of these spills extended beyond 24 hours and took place at sites designated as bathing waters or areas of special scientific interest, raising concerns about the impact on these fragile ecosystems.

Thames Water, Wessex Water, and Southern Water have vehemently denied any wrongdoing. They claim to have adhered to the rules and reported any incidents to the regulator. They also stated that they are actively investing in infrastructure improvements to reduce pollution. However, Water UK, the industry body, has called for a thorough investigation into the alleged violations, asserting that anyone found guilty of breaking the rules should be held accountable.

The Environment Agency has acknowledged the issue and is taking enforcement action against the implicated water companies. Additionally, they are collaborating with the government to reform legislation and implement stricter controls on sewage discharges.

This investigation by the BBC comes at a time when public concern about the state of the UK’s rivers and waterways is on the rise. These water bodies are amongst the most polluted in Europe, with a recent report by the WWF indicating that none of England’s rivers meet legal water quality standards, and over 40% of them suffer from sewage pollution.

Environmental activists and concerned citizens are calling for immediate action to address this issue and hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. The revelations serve as a stark reminder of the pressing need for stringent environmental regulations and robust enforcement mechanisms to safeguard the UK’s precious water resources and ecosystems.







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