Around the world, sewage pollution events are not uncommon, despite the proven associated public health risks. This is why we at Oceanographic are proud to be a coalition partner of a new Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) petition, which calls on the UK government to end sewage pollution across Britain and ensure safe oceans year-round.
The petition, #EndSewagePollution, is demanding that George Eustice, Secretary of State for the Environment, works for better protection of human and ocean health. This would include an enhanced water-quality testing regime, world-leading water quality legislation and nature-based solutions to sewage pollution. The charity plans to change government policy and legislation by generating more than 50,000 signatures.
“This is the water industry emissions scandal,” said Hugo Tagholm, CEO of the UK-based charity Surfers Against Sewage. “A water quality testing programme that overlooks the worst sewage pollution events and hides the true state of rivers and the Ocean. It’s unacceptable to treat these blue spaces that are increasingly important to the health and wellbeing of society in this way.”
Figures from 2018 show that the UK is currently placed 25th out of 30 EU countries for coastal water quality, and just 14% of British rivers meet good environmental standards. Agricultural pollution and day-to-day sewage continues to stream into the ocean and rivers across the UK. Additionally, huge amounts of contaminated effluent and run-off enter the ocean, leaving the UK’s water quality at the same dire level as it was in the 1990s.
“The public demands more water quality information and action to protect them at the beach,” said Tagholm. “With the governments water quality testing programme on hold this summer, our campaigns have never been more important to help keep swimmers safe. That’s why we track and monitor hundreds of sewage spills annually, and share real-time water quality information for the whole of the UK through our Safer Seas Service app. But without bigger government support, changes cannot be put in place to constantly protect the public and the environment from the dangers of sewage.”
The recent Generation Sea study conducted by SAS found that 79% of water lovers believe they will place greater value on nature, and 70% believe their attitude towards spending time outdoors will increase after lockdown. A huge 77% want the government to take more action to protect the sea, and 74% want businesses to do more to protect beaches.
The lack of support for ocean welfare from government and big businesses is endangering citizens, wildlife and ecosystems. Without safeguarding measures in place, it is still legal for companies to pollute public waters and use the ocean as a place to dispose of contaminated effluent and waste. Better legislation is desperately needed to protect UK public waters from the dangerous impact of sewage pollution.
Tagholm concluded: “We’re calling on the public to support our campaign to #EndSewagePollution – the government must act to stop our rivers and ocean from being the dumping ground for big industry, and when we deliver this to government later this year, we hope for a clear blue future for our waters.”
To sign the SAS #EndSewagePollution petition, click here.
To read the SAS study, “A cross-sectional study on the prevalence of illness in coastal bathers compared to non-bathers in England and Wales: Findings from the Beach User Health Survey”, click here.
Photograph by Robert Bye.
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