Wastewater works pump thousands of hours of sewage into UK rivers

Sewage overflows are threatening public health and wildlife at beauty spots… with the worst leak lasting for 8,500 hours, experts warn

  • Sewage overflows are threatening public health and wildlife, new data suggests
  • Waste works in Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland among worst offenders 
  • Freshwater experts warning of ecological risks facing British beauty spots

Sewage overflows lasting thousands of hours are threatening public health and wildlife at popular beauty spots. 

The worst offender was a wastewater works in Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales that discharged sewage into the River Lune for a total of 8,490 hours last year.

A treatment works at Cark, Cumbria, released sewage for more than 7,000 hours into the River Eea in the Lake District, where another plant in the village of Embleton also produced effluent for more than 6,600 hours.

The three sites are included the top 10 longest-lasting sewage spills taken from Environment Agency data analysed by the Liberal Democrats.

All three are run by United Utilities, which provides wastewater services in the North West and was found to be responsible for seven of the top 10.

Sewage overflows lasting thousands of hours are threatening public health and wildlife at popular beauty spots. [File picture] 

A treatment works at Cark, Cumbria, released sewage for more than 7,000 hours into the River Eea in the Lake District, where another plant in the village of Embleton also produced effluent for more than 6,600 hours 

Professor Rick Battarbee, a freshwater ecologist from University College London, said: ‘Sewage overflows are a threat to public health because wild swimmers and others using rivers for recreation can become ill from faecal bacteria like E. coli.

‘They are a threat to fish like our native brown trout, which likes clean, oxygenated water, and they can cause excessive algal growth which is bad for river flies such as mayflies and stoneflies.’

The North West is one of the wettest areas of the country, and high rainfall can contribute to sewage overspills.

Sewage can be pumped into rivers to release excess water after heavy rain or a storm to stop it backing up into homes.

Tim Farron, environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: ‘Water companies have got away with this for far too long, particularly when they’re making billions in profits each year.’

A spokesman for United Utilities said: ‘We have invested £1.2billion to improve overflow discharges… and our existing plans are already focused on securing further improvements.’

The North West is one of the wettest areas of the country, and high rainfall can contribute to sewage overspills 

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