There were more than 37,000 monitored sewage spills in the South West Water area last year.
Note the word “monitored”. The longer period of October to mid-May, when sewage discharges and spills are also more likely in the wetter months, are “unmonitored”.
So this is a gross understatement of the real situation. – Owl
The Environment Agency figures show that the number of incidents in 2022 were actually fewer than in 2021.
However, the agency said this was largely the result of dry weather and a subsequent drought.
Meanwhile, North Devon MP Selaine Saxby has called for year-round testing of bathing water quality.
The Conservative MP said a reduction in storm overflows in her constituency had led to “good” or “excellent” water quality.
But in the Commons Ms Saxby said testing only took place between 15 May and 30 September, and called for an extension.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said water companies would, by the end of the year, be required to provide water “year-round” water quality information in the event of a discharge.
She added: “And all water companies will also have to install new flow monitors on more than 2,000 waste water treatment works.”
John Halsall, South West Water’s chief operating officer, said they were reducing the use of storm overflows and had already installed “100% monitoring” on storm overflows, ahead of the government target.
He added: “We want everyone to feel confident about the water quality at their favourite beaches and to know that we are serious about reducing the use of storm overflows.
“We need to stop the overuse of storm overflows.”
In the Commons, Ms Saxby asked: “Will (the minister) consider extending the testing season for the increasing number of all-year-round bathers and surfers, or at least look for waters to be tested after a storm overflow has discharged?”
Ms Pow responded: “We are using powers in the Environment Act, and under those we require companies to make discharge data available in near real time to the public, if there has been a discharge which would affect water quality, and to monitor water quality upstream and downstream of their assets.”
Under the current system, each classification given to bathing waters has a symbol that councils must display. The classifications are: excellent, good, sufficient, and poor.
Figures published in November showed just over 97% of England’s designated bathing sites met minimum standards in 2022, down slightly on the previous year.