UK News

Fact check: Why have registered sewage spills increased by 50% in one year?

The number of recorded sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas rose by 54 percent last year compared to 2022, new data shows.

FactCheck takes a look.

How much wastewater is dumped into rivers and beaches?

Water utilities are sometimes allowed to spill wastewater into open bodies of water after heavy rains to prevent overloading the system. They used relief valves called “storm spillways” to divert additional rainwater and wastewater into rivers or seas.

According to the latest dataIn 2023 there were 464,056 “monitored leaks” in England. A monitored spill event is a release into the environment. The data is collected by the Environment Agency (EA).

This is a 54 percent increase from just over 300,000 leaks in 2022 and a 13 percent increase compared to 2020.

Why are there more recorded sewage accidents?

The increase in spills is partly due to this 2023 was named the sixth wettest year by the Met Office since records began in 1836, according to EA.

However, the EA also points out that “heavy rainfall does not affect the responsibility of water utilities to manage storm overflows in accordance with legal requirements.”

When 2022 data was released a year ago, the EA said at the time that the decline in spills was actually “mainly due to dry weather last year rather than improvements by water companies.”

However, it is possible that the apparent upward trend in spills since 2016 – when the event duration monitoring system was introduced – could be due to the EA collecting more data than before.

All storm spillways across the water network are now equipped with event duration monitors that measure how long and how often spills last. Compared to just 7 percent in 2010.

And the number of storm spills returning data has increased from 12,000 in 2020 to 14,000 in 2023.

What does the government say?

Helen Wakeham, director of water at the Environment Agency, said: “While it is disappointing that water companies have reported a rise in sewage pollution in 2023, it is unfortunately not surprising.”

“We are pleased to see record investment from the water sector, but know it will take time for this to be reflected in the spill data – it is a complex issue that cannot be solved overnight.”

She added that “no other country has the level of oversight we have” and “we are better positioned than ever to hold water companies to account.”

Water Minister Robbie Moore said: “We have called for 100 per cent of overflows to be monitored by the end of last year to improve transparency.”

“Today’s data shows that water companies must go further and faster to combat storm flooding and clean up our precious waterways. We will ensure that the Environment Agency carefully examines these findings and takes enforcement action where necessary.”

(Image source: Maureen McLean/Shutterstock)

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button