Bathers are outraged, doctors warn of health consequences: Untreated sewage ends up in British lakes and rivers as well as the sea. The fact that the amount has increased significantly in recent years is also related to Brexit.
At the end of a vacation in the UK, many people literally feel like shit. When she was at sea with her daughter, their feces swam behind them, Sean Young of the English beach town south of Littlehampton told the newspaper “I.”
Many bathers felt the same way as the 47-year-old. Many beaches along the English Channel between Cornwall and Essex have been closed due to pollution, but bathing resorts on the North Sea and Irish Sea have also been affected. Because untreated sewage flows into the sea in many places, but also into lakes and rivers.
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That’s about billions of liters. Between 2016 and 2021, the amount has increased nearly 30 times, according to data from the Environment Agency. Before joining the European Union, Britain is on track to become “Europe’s dirty man” again after Brexit. The Internet is scoffing: rock band Queen should rename their hit “Radio Gaga” to “Radio Kaka”, among other things. Columnist Mark Steele in the newspaper “Mirror” wrote: “Focus on the advantages of sewage in the sea – soon we have a brown bridge to Europe.”
The fact that so much waste has flown into the sea recently is due to the British system. Rainwater and sewage are sent in a single pipe to sewage treatment plants. When it rains heavily, however, the capacity is sometimes insufficient, especially when dry land cannot absorb water quickly, as was the case after the recent heat wave. This can overflow sewage treatment plants and flood homes and streets. For this reason, excess wastewater can sometimes be released directly into the ocean and rivers – this has recently been used by many sewage treatment plants.
Problem: Many systems that are supposed to monitor the discharge of wastewater do not work or are not installed as intended. Nearly a quarter of sewage was left unsupervised last year, according to an analysis by the opposition Liberal Democrats. “This is a national scandal and it smacks of the new number one cover-up,” the party’s environmental spokesman Tim Farron said.
Health Consequences and Incompetent Government
Hurricane health could also have consequences on British shores. The government itself warns that swimming in open water can increase the risk of gastrointestinal diseases as well as respiratory, skin, ear and eye infections. Experts stress that it is also possible to become infected with hepatitis A and other diseases. Seafood can also be inedible. For example, sewage also flows into areas where shellfish are caught. In Whitstable, south-eastern England, the oyster harvest was halted because of symptoms of norovirus after eating it.
Shortly before the change in Downing Street, the government is paralyzed, with outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson no longer wanting to make any fundamental decisions. Many critics have identified Johnson’s Conservative Party as the main culprit. In autumn 2021, the parliamentary group declined to amend the environmental law, which would require water companies to stop pumping wastewater into rivers. The favorite to replace Johnson, Liz Truss as Environment Secretary, once cut millions of pounds for the fight against water pollution, reports The Guardian newspaper.
The government and sewage companies claim that adequate safeguards have been put in place. According to a report by the Environment Agency and regulator OffWat, the total separation of wastewater and stormwater systems would cost between £350 billion and £600 billion, adding up to £1,000 per year for utilities per household.
But critics point to another reason for the contaminated beaches: Brexit. Even before the vote on leaving the European Union in 2016, environmental groups warned that the government could ease environmental regulations after Brexit. Only stricter EU laws and pressure from Brussels would have cleared the water and air in Great Britain, still the prime minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, said. Now environmental activists are blaming the government for the situation.