Cornwall

South West beach water affected by raw sewage, water bosses admit

Beach sign
Image caption South West Water says it warns people about the potential for stormwater overflows to increase pollution in the sea

Raw sewage is being pumped into the sea around Devon and Cornwall after heavy rain overwhelmed drainage systems, water bosses have admitted.

Water quality warnings have been issued on beaches in the county because of the problems, South West Water said.

It said intense rainfall leads to run-off from fields and towns combining and affect bathing water quality.

Andy Cummins, Surfers Against Sewage (Sas), said the drainage infrastructure needed to be upgraded.

"We need a sewage infrastructure that can cope with the amount of rainfall we get year on year," he said.

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"Our infrastructure needs to be able to cope with everything we put down the loo."

Sas has previously slammed South West Water's systems after claiming there had been 40 incidents of raw sewage polluting beaches in one weekend last year.

Mr Cummins said many people were not even aware "raw untreated human sewage" was discharged into the sea when the problem arose.

Tourism groups in the area have complained about the sewage, saying it puts people off going into the sea.

Fatos Fida, on holiday from London, said: "I think it is disgusting. As a tourist I had no idea. It puts me off visiting the beach as it isn't hygienic."

A South West Water spokesman said they operate an information system telling people about storm water overflows and the risk of pollution affecting quality.

The firm was the only water and sewerage company of the nine operating mainly in England, to have performed "significantly below target" by the Environment Agency's (EA) 2015 performance assessment.

It had 171 category 1-3 pollution incidents per 10,000 km of sewer, 74 more than the next worst-offending firm, the EA reported.

An Environment Agency spokesman said being rated "poor performance" led to "more visits, scrutiny of incidents we attend and increases the number of audits we carry out".

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